Stephen Kovacs, D.O., sees patients with lung problems all day long as a pulmonologist at Saint Vincent Hospital.
His plan is to help even more patients through a new online business he has formed with two other physicians, a lawyer and software architect Jamison Krugger.
MedicalOpinionCenter.com is a website that will allow patients to seek a second opinion without having to leave their home.
Kovacs, 37, and his partners would put the patient in touch with a physician specialist who would analyze the patient's medical records and diagnostic scans to determine if the treatment they are receiving is the best for their illness, injury or condition.
"So many patients have to wait a long time or drive out of town to see a specialist," Kovacs said. "We are offering a way to provide expert opinions to people who might have trouble getting them any other way."
The idea for MedicalOpinionCenter.com began about three years ago when Kovacs and Krugger were introduced by Krugger's girlfriend, who worked with Kovacs in Saint Vincent's intensive care unit.
Kovacs had been thinking about ways to spread the word about new and improved lung cancer procedures and treatments. Krugger's experience as a software developer led them to consider creating a website that would allow patients to reach out online to physicians across the country.
"We looked at organizations like the Cleveland Clinic and others, and their efforts seemed to be on the right track," Krugger said. "But our site would have access to physicians from many different medical centers, not just one."
Kovacs and Krugger, 41, began recruiting physicians to serve as the website's panel of experts, while working on the website to make it simple and safe for patients to use.
Once testing is completed and the website opens later this year, here is how MedicalOpinionCenter.com will work:
Patients will log on, fill out forms and complete a questionnaire about their medical condition. They will then send any relevant diagnostic scans via FedEx to the company, which recently moved into the Erie Technology Incubator, 900 State St.
"We would prefer that people send us those scans digitally," Krugger said. "But people have issues in dealing with their PCs in general, and many of them are using devices that don't have a CD-ROM, so they can't send them to us that way."
The website would translate all of a patient's information into a concise report, then send it to an expert physician.
MedicalOpinionCenter.com expects to have between 70 and 80 physicians on staff in 10 core specialties, including cardiology, oncology and pulmonology.
"The physician will send their opinion to the patient within five days," Kovacs said. "They will also send it to the patient's primary physician, as well."
Unlike traditional second opinions, these online opinions are not currently covered by most health insurers. The cost is expected to be close to the $565 the Cleveland Clinic currently charges for online second opinions, Kovacs said.
"This isn't designed to replace the primary or specialist physician," Kovacs said. "It's to give patients another option."
DAVID BRUCE can be reached at 870-1736 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNbruce.