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Demystifying Medicine One Month at a Time

Internet House Calls

It’s not the first, but it’s generated a fairly big announcement:

A company called American Well has introduced virtual visits directly to consumers in Massachusetts. [They’ve already been doing it in 43 states and the District of Columbia.]

A hand with a stethoscope to give an examThe company has been partnering with insurance companies to provide internet-enabled visits to select populations. But now going direct to the public in the state with the highest number of doctors per capita has increased their visibility.

For the introductory price of twenty bucks (visits usually are forty-nine per), you can sign up and have a vetted medical professional (one that you select from a roster based on background, specialty, and availability) diagnose and even treat you for your problem.

Treatments include e-prescribing of antibiotics or other medications, in addition to advice. Potentially addictive controlled substance pain medications (Vicodin, Lortab, et al.) are not permitted.

Depending on your viewpoint, this is another step forward in technology enabling consumer-driven and consumer-friendly health care. Or it’s another insult to the primacy of the doctor (aka “provider”)-patient relationship and the “Medical Home” model.

Would you confer with a doc online, if you could see her and talk to her “live?”

5 Comments

  1. Yes I would. $20 would get me a few different opinions, oh yes I would.

  2. Stephanie Reifkind Kahn

    December 8, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Definitely! With so few physicians having evening or weekend hours, it’s so very hard to make an appointment…especially for minor concerns. I think it would be great!

  3. One other thought . . . I can’t help but wonder if an attempt has ever been made to compare the amount of time lost from work to the amount of time one actually spent SEEING the physician. As a former employer (and employee), it was not at all uncommon for someone’s “9:30” appointment to wipe out 2 – 3 hrs. of their work day.

    What’s the cost to our GNP of the current “scheduling/waiting/waiting/waiting” setup?

    Not to mention that if “being referred”, the patient is TOLD when that appointment will be, rarely if ever, allowed the courtesy of coordinating it with their own schedules. The middle of what would have been an important presentation to their client be damned!

  4. I wouldn’t have any issue seeing a doctor via the web for certain conditions–if I had a sinus infection or a minor skin rash, for example. Or if I were simply going to the doctor for an annual medication checkup–“Is this antacid medication still working well for you? Okay, great, here’s another refill”–I would actually prefer an online visit to save myself the drive. These are instances in which I’ll see a medical professional at a drugstore like RiteAid or Walgreens just for the convenience, but it would be even more convenient online.

    Beyond very minor issues like this, though, I would like to see a doctor in-person if possible. (I understand that some folks who live in remote areas don’t always have easy access to doctors, especially medical specialists, so sometimes the internet or a nurse practitioner is their only option.) It’s hard for a doctor to conduct a prostate exam over the internet, ya know?

    So yes, I would definitely be willing to try online appointments, but only for relatively minor issues or routine medication checkups. Anything more serious and I want to see my doctor in-person.

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