The Virtual Doctor Is In: Getting Healthcare Advice via Computer
One of the conundrums about being sick is that it's often necessary to visit a doctor to find out more about the severity of your illness. If your diagnosis is serious and contagious, that means you’re potentially putting everyone else in the waiting room at risk of contracting your sickness, not to mention staff members at the doctor's office. On the other hand, even if it turns out you’re not as sick you originally feared, you still have to take time out of your day to get medical attention, and also have no choice but to risk exposure to patients who are much sicker than yourself. Fortunately, a Seattle Washington company called Care Simple aims to change all that by making medical attention as accessible as a home computer.
Moving into the Mainstream
Virtual doctor services have begun to gain widespread attention thanks in part to an article published by the Wall Street Journal at the close of last year. Some employers are starting to pay for doctor visits that occur in cyberspace, and insurance provider WellPoint recently announced that it would pay for these sorts of services as a subscriber benefit. These trends are likely to continue, since a survey by Mercer found that 15% of the largest employers use some sort of telemedicine already, and 39% are currently thinking about it.
Both employers and insurers who wish to cut costs see virtual doctor services as an appealing alternative to other options such as spontaneous visits to the emergency room or an urgent care center. New members of Care Simple pay $10 for their first visit and $85 for each subsequent visit. Washington residents will soon be able to get yearly and monthly packages that feature a $5 per visit rate.
How Does a Virtual Doctor Appointment Work?
The process begins with registration. Interested parties fill out a form that asks for details about demographics and health background. Then, once care is required, users sign in to the website and request service by either telephone or webcam. The website is compatible with both Macintosh computers and PCs, along with all major browsers. Adobe Flash is required, too.
If a provider determines that a prescription is required, they can call it in to a local pharmacy. After a visit, users can log back into the site and refer back to a treatment summary, too.
Tackling Most, But Not All Health Issues
Understandably, there are a few types of ailments that may not be treatable in a virtual doctor's office. For example, a physician might be hesitant to make a diagnosis about a severe burn or possible concussion. These two issues in particular are hard to diagnose by sight alone, and could be potentially life-threatening in the event of a misdiagnosis.
However, problems like bladder infections and pinkeye are two very annoying and common health issues that can usually be treated quickly with help from antibiotics. in the case of pinkeye, a person might be so badly afflicted that they are unable to drive themselves to seek medical attention. During a bladder infection, someone could be so eager to seek relief that they'll first try remedies like large doses of cranberry juice, instead of seeking a prescription medication right away. Fortunately, virtual doctors can treat most of these types of cases, and more.
Medical problems are never convenient, but with the help of virtual doctor services, it's now possible for people to get prompt attention without even leaving home.
Author Trent Call writes for health and healthcare industry blogs. Interested in the crossroads between healthcare and technology? You may want to consider a degree in health informatics, such as the one offered by the University of Chicago-Illinois.