It’s no secret that the internet has worked its way into medical care over the past several years. Medical records are stored and transferred electronically and are available to patients almost immediately through online portals. Websites such as WebMD emerged, and eventually created apps. Providers have noticed an increase in patients searching for their symptoms online, and coming to their doctors self-diagnosed, often with a printout of potential diseases to meet their symptoms. A Time Magazine author called this craze “cyberchondria.”
The latest piece of technology, dubbed “telemedicine” involves seeking medical care over the internet using mobile video conference applications such as Skype, Google Hangouts, or Facetime, instead of in person. See the embeded video from PBS Newshour.
Teladoc is a prominent example. With the slogan, “Talk to a Doctor Anytime, Anywhere,” Teladoc provides a U.S. board-certified doctor or pediatrician licensed in the patient’s state who then reviews the patient’s electronic health record, listens to the patient’s concerns, recommends treatment and sends a prescription to a nearby pharmacy if necessary. All of this is done over the phone or video-chat. The patient then pays online via credit card. According to Forbes, Teledoc’s numbers show that virtual doctor care is “no passing fad.” If the visit meets certain criteria, it may even be covered by Medicare/Medicaid.
Telemedicine would allow doctors to become more available and allow patients to have questions answered quicker than scheduling and travelling to an office appointment. “This may be an effective “stopgap” in the crowding of America’s hospitals and emergency rooms.” Patients could consult a healthcare provider over the internet and ask “do I need to go to the Emergency Room, or can this wait until I can get in to see my doctor?”
Telemedicine has raised some concern among the medical community. Some providers worry that telemedicine will increase misdiagnoses. They worry that without hands-on examination, such as taking the patient’s temperature and examining lymph nodes, physicians could miss an important detail. Some states have regulated the practice. For example, Idaho, Texas and Arkansas don’t allow tele-visits unless the patient has first been seen in person by the physician.
It sounds like medicine may have a place in the care of minor medical issues or questions, but there is no doubt that serious medical concerns should be handled in person.
recently named in the 2009 edition of Best Lawyer's In America, David Mittleman has been representing seriously injured people since 1985. A partner with Church Wyble PC—a division of Grewal Law PLLC—Mr. Mittleman and his partners focus on medical malpractice, wrongful death, car accidents, slip and falls, nursing home injury, pharmacy/pharmacist negligence and disability claims.