Hardly anybody now alive can remember the good old days of in-home medical care.
Believe it or not, in your grandparent’s day, the family doctor used to leave his office and travel to your home to deliver personal care, rather than vice versa.
That’s the basic idea behind the online doctor, who uses the high-tech internet to deliver high-touch, personalized medical service via video conferencing or the telephone. Does it really work? Is it really as effective as a personal visit to your home?
Benefits of the Online Doctor
There’s a lot to be said for the online doctor visit. The service purports to be …
· Efficient – you can bypass the waiting room,
· Affordable –low monthly subscriptions
· Fast and immediate – skip the drive time,
· Effective for a wide array of medical problems,
· Private – just you and the doctor,
· Available – 24/7/365 service ensures emergency service at all hours.
Problems Treated By the Online Doctor
The range of problems that can be treated over the phone falls into two categories: physical and behavioral. Many of these are for simple conditions, but still, it’s actually quite a substantial list.
Some of the physical problems eligible for online treatment include allergies, constipation, flu, headache, rash and urinary problems, to name a few. If a prescription is needed, in most cases the online doctor is authorized to issue an e-prescription or a fax to a pharmacist near you. Exceptions include non-therapeutic drugs, DEA controlled substances, and other drugs with potential for abuse.
Behavioral issues include stress, panic attacks, depression, addictions, and child or adolescent issues. Among many others. The range of service even extends to men’s and women’s issues, marriage issues, and parenting issues.
When you consider that these categories cover 70% of doctor visits, the value of the service becomes obvious. The average $14.95 per month subscription is clearly a tremendous cost advantage. This has been a tremendous boon for the un-insured in particular.
Performance of Online Doctors
There are a number of online doctor services, including MDlive, TeleDoc, and American Well. Some of these are moving into the realm of preventative care. The first two are by far the largest, but American Well is expanding into nutritional services in an effort to capture that niche market.
All of the online services stress that they are not a replacement for your family physician or an emergency room. They will help you decide if those services are needed, or not. For chronic issues, they will typically defer to the local facility.
There is some concern that online doctors are too conservative because of their obvious limited access to the patient and potential for liability. For example, some subscribers looking for a prescription of antibiotics have complained of being turned down. A few other complaints come from members who call in for help with things like stitches, which are obviously not covered.
But for the most part, the job performance of online doctors is overwhelmingly positive. There is about 95% satisfaction with doctor performance reported from literally thousands of patient feedback reports. That figure holds for both of the two main providers, MDLive and TeleDoc.