Are you ready to friend your doctor on Facebook?

Jay Parkinson. Photo by Noah Kalina.Jay Parkinson. Photo by Noah Kalina.When we talk about the next generation of health care, we tend to focus on the issues being bandied about in Washington right now. Will coverage be universal and deliver good care to the poor, the rich, and those in the middle? Will it be publicly funded, privatized or some combination of the two? Will all our doctors have access to digitized versions of our medical records?

But there's another aspect of medical care that people don't talk about too much -- how can patients get their doctors to be better communicators?

I'm lucky. I don't have that problem. My internist is an old friend, which means that I have his email address, his cell phone and even his home number. I don't abuse these things, but I do use them. And it has completely transformed the way I manage my health. I often email him with a quick question that doesn't require a face-to-face visit. I don't use his receptionist for appointments because we usually just make them by email. I save time. And I feel spoiled.

Jay Parkinson, a doctor-turned-health care entrepreneur, wants to deliver the kind of relationship I have with my doctor to anyone who wants it. And he wants to take it a step further, giving patients access to an entire team of doctors all available for online visits and chats, specialist referrals, second opinions. Parkinson worked briefly as a practitioner in the Brooklyn, and he got a flurry of media attention after launching his reasonably priced pay-as-you-go Web 2.0 medical practice, catering to those with or without insurance. He made housecalls and was also available by email, IM, and text. Housecalls weren't cost-effective, but he touched on a lot of features he is now building into a business model.

Parkinson quit practicing medicine and now serves as Chief Concept Officer for Hello Health, a company that will soon offer its technology to doctors around the country. "Right now doctors don't get paid for communication so they don't communicate," he said, "We're looking to change the whole model." Once the platform is operational, doctors will join the Hello Health network as a way to build their practices. Patients will be able to search for doctors in their areas, and they will be able to rate doctors using a Yelp-like system. Doctors will set their own rates and will publish those on their profile pages. And both doctors and patients will be able to tap into the network for referrals and second opinions.

One criticism of the model is that it requires patients to pay as they go, so there is no built-in system to serve those who can't afford to pay anything. I asked Parkinson about this: "You can't solve poverty with technology like this," he said. "That said, we are just trying to create a platform. And if any doctor wants to treat a patient for free, that's the doctor's choice."

What do you think? Is this what you're looking for in the next generation of doctors? Are you looking for a doctor who emails. Are you ready to be Facebook friends with your internist, IM your gastroenterologist, and follow your dentist on Twitter?