Aug. 8 (UPI) -- National pharmacy chain CVS said Wednesday it's expanding its healthcare offerings and will launch 24-hour video consultations with doctors through a mobile phone app.
The company said its MinuteClinic application will provide virtual visits with healthcare providers for minor illnesses, injuries and skin conditions.
"Through this new telehealth offering, patients now have an additional option for seeking care that is even more convenient for them," said CVS Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan.
The service is available for patients 2 years old and older in nine states -- Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Virginia -- and Washington, D.C. CVS said it will expand nationally by the end of the year.
To use the service, patients fill out a health questionnaire about their ailment and are matched with a board-certified provider, who will conduct a video-enabled visit with the patient. On the video calls, they can offer treatments, issue prescriptions and recommend a followup, in-person visit with a doctor.
MinuteClinic Video Visit will cost patients $59.
The announcement comes amid a growing interest nationwide in telemedicine or telehealth. Some health insurance providers now offer telehealth as part of their plans. It helps stem problems from a national shortage of doctors -- both primary care and specialists -- and the fact that one-quarter of the population lives in rural areas without easy access to care.
A 2014 study in the journal Health Affairs found that the most common virtual visits were for acute respiratory problems, urinary tract infections and skin complaints.
Last year, President Donald Trump and former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin announced an expansion of telehealth services for veterans. About 700,000 veterans used telehealth services in 2016.
"We're going to be able to use VA providers in cities where there are a lot of doctors, and be able to use those doctors to help our veterans in rural areas where there aren't many healthcare professionals," Shulkin said.
"This will significantly expand access to care for our veterans, especially for those who need help in the area of mental health, which is a bigger and bigger request -- and also in suicide prevention," he added.