Doctor’s Visit, Without the Visit
If you’d rather eat gecko poop than go to a doctor, there might be a solution when your belly hurts and you want to know if your symptoms are serious. Instead of hopping in the car, driving to the clinic, waiting while the doctor sees 10 people ahead of you and then suffering the cold feel of the stethoscope against your skin—you can relax on your couch in your PJs and boot up your mobile device. The internet is rife with opportunities to connect with doctors and other medical care practitioners without leaving home. There are apps you can use and websites to log into to get an appointment fast. 1
Doctor on Demand is one such app, and it’s available on phones, computers, and other mobile devices. Once the app is installed, you can have a complete video session with a board-certified medical practitioner using your device camera and sound.2 The Doctor on Demand website features a promotional video that shows a user having a Skype-like conversation with a physician who asks her to open her mouth so he can look down her throat. Based on the symptoms she’s described and what he sees on his screen, he offers her a prescription.
Apps like Doctor on Demand aren’t appropriate for monitoring chronic or life-threatening illnesses, but if you’ve got a sore throat or minor injury, it might be just the thing. According to the Doctor on Demand website, appropriate conditions for online consultation include urinary tract infections, allergies, colds and flu, eye and skin problems, and sports injuries. The cost is a $49 flat fee for an appointment. The doctor you’ll see will be board-certified in your state, and the wait, according to the website, is mere minutes.
Services like Doctor on Demand are part of an initiative called Telehealth, which refers to any platform that delivers healthcare remotely. Telehealth not only makes it easier for busy, lazy, or doctor-phobic people to get medical care; it also allows those living in remote geographical areas or who have conditions that keep them homebound to see doctors easily. But again, even if access to the doctor's office is easy for you, doing your appointment online saves you time, hassle, and exposure to the germs of other patients coughing in the waiting room.
If your problem is psychological rather than physical, by the way, you can make an appointment with a psychologist or psychiatrist. It will cost a bit more—$79 for 25 minutes with a psychologist or $119 for 50 minutes, but that’s actually well under market rates, meaning it’s a good deal. Psychiatrists cost $229 for 45 minutes, but the less expensive psychologist will do for depression or anxiety, unless you need medication.
Users sign up and indicate what type of practitioner they’d like to “see,”—a medical doctor, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist. Within minutes, there’s a doctor on the screen, ready to help.
A competitive service, Live Health Online, offers a significant advantage.3 With Live Health, you can use your insurance plan and pay only the copay amount, provided that your health plan is affiliated with Live Health. If not, the copay is the same as for Doctor on Demand: $49. The FAQ says that the average appointment lasts about 10 minutes, which seems to be on par with the typical in-and-out physician visit if you had gone to the office (minus the 45-minute wait).
The doctors affiliated with Live Health are no slackards, either. For instance, Dr. Michael Gray, family physician, graduated from the top-rated University of Maryland and has 20 years of experience. Dr. Ingrid Antall also has 20 years of experience in family medicine, with a degree from George Washington University. Again, all the affiliated doctors are board certified, plus, users rate the doctors so you'll know not only that your assigned physician has the requisiite academic credentials, but also, you can choose a practitioner with good ratings.
Yet one other service, Health Tap, is a boon for people traveling or living overseas. No matteer where you are, you can contact one of the 100,000 doctors in the HealthTap network and get your medical questions answered for free. The answer will be posted on a public forum, but if you'd rather ask your question in private, you can pay $9.99 to do so. You can also ask your own doctor to join, and if you succeed, you can schedule a virtual visit for $44. Want to see your beloved Kansas City doctor while lying on the beach in Bermuda? With Health Tap, you can do that. Or, you can subscribe to Health Tap Prime for $99 per month for all-hours text-chat or video access to any of the physicians in the network--no matter where in the world you are, no matter what time of day or night it is.
There are plenty of other competitive services out there, should you opt for a virtual visit. The question remains, though, if virtual care measures up to the in-office visit. Some experts don't think so.4 They note, for one thing, that telehealth visits result in more prescriptions than live visits to doctors. Also, they say that there's no substitute for being able to touch the surface of a patient's skin and perhaps palpate problem areas or listen to the heartbeat live. On the other hand, if you've been to the doctor lately, you might well have had a visit shorter than 10 minutes, experienced no physical contact anyway, and left with a prescription in hand on your way out the door. As doctors see increasingly unthinkable numbers of patients in a single day in many overcrowded practices, the quality of care reaches new lows, making telecare seem a perfectly viable and sometimes, even preferable option. After all, telehealth appointments can always be followed up with in-person appointments with your own doctor should you be lucky enough to have a doctor you like and trust.
The bottom line is that telehealth may certainly do in a pinch, but if you have the luxury and time to research the background of the assigned doctor, all the better. And if you can get a second opinion from a natural health practitioner when the crisis ends, even better yet.
- 1. Duffy, Jill. "10 Apps That are Changing Healthcare." 11 February 2015. PC Magazine.5 November 2016.http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2476623,00.asp
- 2. http://www.doctorondemand.com
- 3. http://www.livehealthonline.com
- 4. "Tahir, Darius. "Telehhealth services surging despite questions about value." 21 February 2015. Modern Healthcare. 5 November 2016. http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150221/MAGAZINE/302219981