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Facetime your doc? More than 70% of people say they would interact with doctors online

Online Doctor Consultation

To comment please visit this post on the Houston Chronicle Blog.

“Healthcare professionals are among the last, if not the last, service providers to not use email to communicate with the people they serve, ” writer Joseph Kvedar points out in a recent Wall Street Journal feature. But we’re talking medical innovation beyond email. Just over 50 percent of adult Americans say they’d agree to an online doctor consultation and ask care-related questions. And more people said they’d like to take advantage of the web to make more routine aspects of doctor visits efficient.

Most people want interact with their doctors online to:

  • schedule appointments (81%)
  • request prescriptions (68%)
  • get lab results (62%)
  • complete medical forms (59%)
  • pay bills (53%)

(Saurage Research Nov/Dec 2011 Key Findings)

Doctors are poised to take advantage of available technology

A reported 10% of doctors plan to use video software for online consultations with their patients. Traditional thoughts on remote medical care have been limited to devices that allow doctors to track and monitor patients’ health between visits (think pacemakers). Now the idea of remote medical care is extending to include live consultations via the web.

Rite Aid recently launched web consultation platforms in its pharmacies across Detroit. The city is currently a test market for the platforms. Come companies have forgone test markets and are committed full-on to the change in medical services. Consult A Doctor currently provides telemedicine services to general consumers and has plans to launch its platform in hospitals and clinics. And if the trend continues, 2012 will produce a stream of online medical service providers who offer direct customer consultations.

Why remote medicine may be appealing

It’s no secret emergency rooms are frequented by patients with injuries or ailments that don’t require urgent care. Many patients who struggle with the cost of insurance turn the the emergency room for primary care.

Without insurance, a doctor visit costs $150 on average. So far, online doctor consultations range from $45 to $80 without insurance. The appeal for low-cost healthcare is strong for patients. And the cost savings the services tout include less time spent away from work, and no travel time or costs (though the latter is specific to the systems that only require only an internet connection to access them).

For doctors, the cost of rent may disappear. And more importantly, the element of delayed pay is significantly reduced by direct pay from patients for services rendered.

Quality of care

Of course the question of the quality of care arises. To that I say, what of the emergency medical care hotlines, and nurse helplines that have been around for decades? Considering that, face-to-face consultation via live webcam is progress.

Speaking of progress, it will be interesting to see how insurance companies evolve as web visits and online doctor consultations become a mainstay in the landscape of medical care. Blue Cross Blue Shield may be ahead of its time since the company has covered the costs of e-visits for at least two years. However, most insurance holders haven’t been offered or taken advantage of coverage for online medical services yet.

What do you think? Would you be up for FaceTime-ing your doc via your iPad2?

Read the full Nov/Dec 2011 Key Findings post

To comment please visit this post on the Houston Chronicle Blog.

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