Sunday, December 20, 2009

Visiting Your Doctor Online Is a Virtual Reality - US News and World Report

Visiting Your Doctor Online Is a Virtual Reality - US News and World Report: "Gano and Harper are surfing a new wave of patient-friendly, relatively inexpensive, Web-based healthcare. A recent partnership between American Well and OptumHealth, a division of UnitedHealth Group, will take Online Care nationwide to all consumers, regardless of insurance provider. Then there is MDLiveCare, a national service with more than 100,000 members who may or may not be covered by a healthcare plan and who pay a flat $35 per online visit to consult with primary-care providers, specialists, and therapists in the network.

Virtual doctor visits are in real time and don't have to adhere to office hours. In Hawaii, some of the most remote patients now have 24-7 access to basic healthcare.

Such services offer more than convenience, however. An online encounter often is a substitute for an expensive trip to the ER. It's also likely to be cheaper than an office visit, plus it confers nearly instant access to a patient's choice of available doctors and—a boon for employers—may trim the number of workdays missed for minor maladies. Ninety-five percent of Harper's patients using the Hawaii service can be managed without a face-to-face visit, says the physician."

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