by Donald McGee
Most physician visits have more to do with information and consultation than actual treatment (e.g. prescriptions). What is now emerging are companies recruiting physicians to take information calls, presumably to back up a person's search on the internet with more professional advice. After all, people do trust physicians more than any other source.
With ObamaCare and the tectonic shifts in health care already under way, a new health care system, or subsystem, is now emerging where patients and families do online research and then consult a physician online or by phone via a reputable telemedicine company.
As physician shortages are likely to get worse, efficient telemedicine-enabled physician consultations make self care safer and more effective.
The pluses and minuses are fairly obvious: nothing compares to a hands on examination and the initiation of specific tests for diagnostic and treatment purposes, especially by a physician who knows you. Many symptoms, however, that would normally lead to physician contact or even an ER visit, are more concerns than actual diseases (i.e., from anxiety, depression, stress) that sometimes requires a physician to sort through.
Nonetheless, telemedicine-enabled physician access is an option, it improves access to physicians, it's less expensive, and it's cheaper than many co-pays.
The next big movement in telemedicine is not the doc-in-the-box 800 number model where consumers have no direct relationship with the provider, but now, it's the local practitioners who are getting on board directly offering telemedicine to their own patients. This is done using an enabling technology such as TruClinic which makes it quick and easy for any practitioner to integrate telemedicine services into their practice.
As for prevention and improving one's health, well... having any physician tell you to lose weight, eat better, stop smoking, and so forth may carry more weight than any other person in the patient's circle of support.
24/7 physician access through telemedicine-enabled providers is not a substitute for emergency care, but it can dramatically reduce the number of unnecessary visits to the ER. An online physician will not be able to make critical decisions for patients, but they can help people make the decisions with more information and perspective than without. For non-emergency consultations consider searching for a doctor who is available online to help answer your questions.
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