Some people are more hesitant to call the doctor than others. If I come down with a strange illness that Google doesn't diagnose as a run-of-the-mill cold, I call to make an appointment with my primary care physician, stat. Likewise, I've got my children's pediatrician on speed dial, and I don't hesitate to call their answering service at midnight on a Friday for a scary-sounding cough. But some people - like my husband - are not as friendly with their doctors. They go so infrequently that they have to remind their doctors who they are every time. And their wives are stuck making the appointments for them when they have a medical mystery that really must be solved by a qualified non-Google expert.
There are a lot of reasons one may be hesitant to call the doctor. From not having a doctor at all, to not having insurance, to trying to find the time to squeeze that appointment in, it's easy to procrastinate exams. It seems to be especially true for men. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year and are 22 percent more likely to have neglected their cholesterol tests. But a new company, Doctor on Demand, is giving patients greater access to medical expertise by providing online doctor visits. Those old-fashioned house calls just got updated!
Doctor On Demand allows patients to chat with a doctor face-to-face via video chat on their computer, phone or tablet. Specifically designed for non-emergency issues, the system will connect you with a U.S.-licensed physician in the privacy of your own home. While there is a national network of doctors available that have been trained specifically for video consultations, you'll likely recognize one of the company's advisers: Dr. Phil McGraw, or as he's commonly known, Dr. Phil. The price of a video consultation is straightforward: $40 for up to 15 minutes with a doctor. While Doctor On Demand doesn't accept medical insurance currently, for those without insurance, this is a way to know upfront the costs of the care you're being provided.
There are limits to what can be done online, of course. Certain prescription medications cannot be obtained via web-doctoring, like certain sedatives or medications that require close monitoring. For yearly exams, you'll likely want to head into a brick-and-mortar office to step on a scale and check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But for more routine discomfort and maintenance, this is an easier way to see a doctor. The site lists dozens of maladies that are appropriate for this type of web-chat based service, from allergies to fever to pink eye to depression. For those who would just feel more comfortable talking about depression from the comfort of home or those who don't want to get a baby sitter because of athlete's foot that won't go away, this could be an option to look into.
-By Erin Whitehead
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