Your online doctor will see you now

January 28, 2009


I know it can be tedious hanging around the doctor’s surgery – no matter what time the appointment it’s rare you get in there on time isn’t it – but a new trend from the USA could make that a thing of the past. We are now internet savvy; from banking to shopping online we are used to remote contact – but how do you feel about expanding that to include your doctor?

What do you do when you feel a cough, cold or sore throat coming on? Head to the pharmacy or make an appointment to see the Doctor. If you are a busy New York casting director you do a Star Trek and have the doctor beamed into your office. No, really! This chap just switched on his laptop where he has an account at something called which is a ‘virtual’ doctor’s office. There, for a monthly fee, you can ‘visit’ by video link with a doctor to ask questions, get diagnosed, and have a prescription phoned to your nearest pharmacy to collect.

The doctors communicate in the modern way and you can connect via the internet, email or mobile, and it is certainly catching on in busy New York. Obviously the amount of diagnosis is limited over a video link, but as a first call to pick up any problems it does have its advantages. You get an appointment at your time of choosing and can talk online via video, e-mail a question or visit a Web site where, for a small fee, a doctor will answer your medical questions instantly.

The future is here … Ever pop into Asda? Well their American parent, Wal-Mart has set up clinics in some of their stores in Texas where patients speak via videolink to a physician who works in a central office. The doctor can see a patient’s throat and ears via a camera at the end of medical instruments. Emergency medical technicians at the clinics operate the instruments and do hands-on tasks such as taking blood pressure and temperature. A basic office visit costs $59. Got a medical question? If you need information on your medication or symptoms for measles then there are online sites that have various specialists on hand to give quick answers. Current charge is around $16 – roughly £9.81 per answer, so you might do better to use a great free service here in the UK. I find that NHS Direct does a good job for answering questions for free, and they are very helpful. If you want to try them they are on 0845 4647


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