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 smart phones.
AdvertisementWith 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.