Internet, as we all know is a powerful tool and
is one of the most hyped fastest growing technology ever. The possibilities of
things you can do online are endless. You could shop online, pay bills, look
for jobs, download songs, publish a novel, write a business plan and do much, much
more. It is one of the most powerful communication tool and many companies now
use their website as a main marketing tool.
Now, how about an innovative service that integrates
technology and ensures health care delivery? This service or what is popularly
known as 'virtual doctor visit service' connects the patients right from their
homes with their physicians, using laptop webcams or video-enabled tablets and
With this new evolving healthcare trend, patients
can connect with their healthcare providers and receive complete care without
having to leave the comfort of their home. This system is seen moving into the
limelight, as insurers and employers are increasingly willing to pay for them.
This could also help lessen the burden of doctors
are facing due to a growing shortage of doctors. While online consulting would
help them provide full health care service, it would also enable them to see
more patients. Doctors have the ability to access the patient's medical records
online, add to the record with the patient's permission, and even prescribe
medication as and when required.
Employers and insurers say that the virtual
consults often cost around $40 to $45, which is much less than a visit to the
ER and also cheaper than an urgent-care center or most in-person doctor visits.
The services commonly provide a list of
primary-care physicians with specialties, and the online visits are supposed to
be used for relatively minor, acute needs, rather than serving as a continuing
source of regular care.
Judy Johnson, a call-center trainer, used a
virtual-consult service included in her insurance company Asurion's benefits to
get treatment for sinus infections when she didn't have time to go to her
doctor's office. She signed up online, then called a toll-free number and
described her symptoms. A few minutes later a doctor called her and discussed
her condition as well as her medical history, and then called an antibiotic
prescription to a nearby pharmacy.
Ms. Johnson said she wouldn't have felt safe
picking out an online physician herself, but because it was offered by her
employer, "I never questioned its legitimacy," she said.
Dr. Michael Bagner is an internist at St. Luke's-Roosevelt
Hospital in New York City, who is a part of the TelaDoc network of physicians,
which is an interactive system in which patients are able to obtain either a
telephone or video consultation with a physician. Bagner himself works with the
TelaDoc system five days a week and sees about 25 patients a day.
The added advantage of TelaDoc is that physicians can
access the system conveniently whenever he or she is available, which could be
during office down-time or while relaxing at home.
The annual membership of TelaDoc starts at $30 and also
provides health care services to patients without insurance.
"We need to have new and creative ways of accessing our
patients, allowing our patients to access us," Bagner said. "And this helps not
only us - the providers and patients - but also certainly helps the entire
system (by) cutting costs and providing more access for our patients."
Bagner warned that a patient should use his or her own
judgment when logging online. For example, if a patient is having a serious
medical problem such as shortness of breath or chest pain, the patient should
probably be seen by a doctor at a hospital.
Teladoc is "very focused on compliance"
with state regulations, said Jason Gorevic, its CEO.
Most of us would confess that the worst part of a
visit to the doctor office isn't the needle sticks or embarrassing physical
exams, but the long, exhaustive drawn-out wait in the waiting room. We should
now be thankful to this new online technology, which has the amazing potential
to make health care more affordable and convenient for all of us.