Sometimes going to a doctor’s office is inconvenient. You actually have to take time out of your day and maybe cancel something you were looking forward to doing in order to go see your doctor. It doesn’t help that you might end up waiting a long time at your doctor’s office before you finally see them for a 15-30 minute visit. This is especially true if it’s something minor like a fever or acne. In fact the whole process can be inconvenient enough that a person may just decide to sleep off the flu for a few days rather than going to see a doctor.
That’s one of the reasons online physician consultations are starting to emerge. You consult a physician online regarding your condition and you may even attach images of your rash for example and the doctor will tell you what to do online. Of course if he or she finds it to be a serious condition then they’ll refer you to a hospital. There are lots of benefits for online consultations such as the ease of access, that it eliminates the problem of self diagnosing, provides easy prescriptions, and is overall very convenient. There are also limitations to this service such as serious conditions and the inability of the doctor to examine you.
Online consultations also solve the lack of enough walk-in clinics. Walk-in clinics are a great solution for those who don’t have insurance and can’t afford to go to a hospital. They’re very important aspects of any community, but unfortunately their number isn’t as sufficient as it used to be. Due to a lack of resources and financing there are now fewer walk-in clinics and urgent care centers than there used to be. Even those that are still present are difficult to access. They have limited working hours per day and are mostly closed on weekends, so how is someone who works 8 hours a day 5 days a week supposed to find time to visit them?
This can make the few clinics that are available at suitable hours extremely crowded as people from different cities come to visit. This will in turn decrease the quality of healthcare they provide. The long waiting hours will be a pain to people who arrived from nearby cities and the extended waiting time can expose the people in the waiting room to infections. Not to mention that cost of the trip and gas money that travelers from other cities have to endure to make the trip.
That’s why a new service has emerged: online physician consultations or telehealth. One of the main benefits of this is how convenient it is. You don’t need to move an inch off your couch as long as you have your phone. You simply pick it up and access a doctor and get your consultation all within the comfort of your home. You don’t need to worry about gas money or long waiting hours. You’ll only be paying the cost of the service and that’s it.
Telehealth also eliminates the risks of self diagnosis. I’m pretty sure that every single one of us has had symptoms that weren’t serious enough to make us go to the hospital but still annoying enough that we looked them up online. Looking up symptoms online can be a very risky thing especially if you have no medical background to rely on. For starters, online diagnoses are very often incorrect. If you look up a headache you’ll end up worrying that it might be a brain tumor when the truth is you’re probably just exhausted or under a lot of stress. More importantly they can cause serious harm. By looking up symptoms and treating them according to what you find on the internet there’s a huge risk that you’ll end up making yourself a lot worse. For instance if you look up a rash on your foot and end up with the diagnosis that it’s simple eczema and the website tells you to apply steroids when you’re actually suffering from a fungal infection then you just gave the fungi the time of their lives. The steroids will suppress your immunity and give the fungi an opportunity to grow even further making matters worse. Online consultations can eliminate or at least limit the epidemic of self diagnoses.
The service is also quite cost effective. Like we said a lot of people who don’t have insurance and don’t have a nearby walk-in clinic with suitable working hours will rely on telehealth. Naturally since they don’t have insurance they’re going to be concerned about the cost. It would cost a person between 120 and 150 dollars to go visit a doctor without health insurance. Consulting a doctor online, however; will cost between 40 to 100 dollars which is almost half of what you’d pay at a clinic. The majority of the doctors you consult online have a fixed fee for a certain amount of time. This gives people who can’t afford doctors and who would have probably stayed at home an alternative solution.
Getting online prescriptions is another great feature offered by telehealth. The doctor will send the prescription to a pharmacy near you so you can pick up the drug you need from there. There are limitations to these as some states and cities don’t allow online prescriptions so keep that in mind. Some medications such as narcotics, stimulants, and other psychiatric medications will also have more prescriptions than others. The main purpose of these online prescriptions is for refills to those who need treatment such as asthmatics or those on birth control pills.
People shouldn’t worry about how secure their personal information is handled over these consultations. Most of those offering the service have secure servers in order to keep the information exchanged during a consultation private and secure. The doctors who are part of these services can also be trusted and patient’s shouldn’t worry about how qualified they are as those responsible for the service carefully select the doctors who work with them.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are various limitations to online consults. They may be acceptable for someone suffering from acne or the flu, but more serious conditions will require that you visit a doctor’s office or hospital. Some conditions can be diagnosed easily and without examination so these are the ones where online consultations will be sufficient, but others are more serious. For instance it’s not recommended that you consult a doctor online regarding your seizures or if you’re coughing or throwing up blood. These will require a full examination by a doctor who will probably also require some investigations to aid him or her in making the diagnosis.
FindaTopDoc offers a similar service in the section where it allows patients to ask questions free of charge and doctors can also respond to these questions online for free. It’s a little bit like a forum. The doctors will tell the patient the best course of action and whether they can wait and see how things develop or if they should go see a doctor straightaway. There’s also a feature on the right side of the page for the patient as it lists nearby doctors in that specialty that the patient can visit.
Overall online consultations are a great idea especially for those with minor conditions who don’t have insurance. Instead of paying over 100$ to wait a while in a doctor’s waiting room before being told to rest in bed and drink plenty of fluids people can consult doctors online for a much cheaper price at the convenience of their homes. The process is cost effective, convenient, and eliminates the problems that come with online diagnoses. It’s important though to remember that there are limitations and that most medical conditions will require an actual visit to the doctor.