These days, it seems like you need to book weeks in advance to see a physician, and unfortunately, we can’t always predict when we are going to get sick. When you’re feeling particularly bad, the last thing you want to do is spend all day in a waiting room trying to be “squeezed in” to see a doctor. Or even worse, the emergency room.
Well, digital technology has finally picked up pace in the medical sector, and it’s completely revolutionizing doctor-patient relationships — particularly, how we interact with healthcare experts. No more taking time off work only to spend hours in an overcrowded, cough-riddled waiting room. In the new medical climate of digital health, you don’t even need to leave home to consult with your doctor — you need only swipe your smartphone. Telemedicine has arrived, and it’s your new favorite app.
What is a digital doctor?
A “digital doctor” is a doctor who comes to you over the internet in the form of a video connection. It’s exactly like using Skype or Facetime to connect with your family and friends.
Digital doctors are a collection of board-certified physicians, pediatricians, dermatologists, and even psychologists who are available 24/7. There will always be someone available to you.
With most of the current wave of new apps, doctors can see patients at any time of the day over their smartphone, and send prescriptions to a nearby pharmacy. Doctor on Demand appeared at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conference earlier this year to discuss how they are helping to change the face of healthcare, and even health insurance companies are coming on board. For example, Blue Shield of California has teamed up with Teladoc to offer it’s customers a new way to seek medical treatment.
How does a digital doctor work?
Companies offering digital health consultations will first have you download their app, sign up, and create a profile. Then, when you’re ready to find a doctor, you will usually be asked to choose the symptoms that you’ve been having and add any relevant medical record history. You’ll then be connected with a healthcare professional for a video consultation.
Whilst on video chat with a physician, they may ask you to use your phone to better show them your symptoms – such as a rash or a sore throat. If they determine that you need medication, they will send a prescription through to your local pharmacy. A completely confidential electronic health record will also be stored for you.
But incredibly, it doesn’t stop here. Doctor on Demand recently announced that it is partnering with Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics to begin offering lab testing as well. If a doctor determines that you may need some lab work done, they can order the tests on the spot, and you’ll be able to choose a lab that works best for you.
Healthy.io is one step ahead. The Israeli-based app, which is currently trying to get FDA-approval here in the US, is changing the entire testing landscape by turning people’s smartphones into their own personal medical device. Through the app, patients will be able to receive a testing kit at home, pee on a test strip, and use the phone’s camera to scan the results back to the healthcare professional for further analysis.
What does it cost?
Certainly there must be a hefty cost tied to the convenience and ease of telemedicine, right? However, this is where things continue to look good. For a standard “medical doctor” on Doctor on Demand, you are looking at a flat rate of $75 if you are uninsured. However, there are a whole list of insurers who have come on board with the app – so you’ll likely be able to cover part or all of the cost of a session. If your insurance company has paired with Teladoc, you’re also in luck. A Blue Shield of California customer, for example, can seek medical attention on the Teladoc app for just $5 a consult.
What are the benefits of a digital doctor?
The greatest benefit of digital physicians and telemedicine is that it puts medical attention back into the hands of patients. Patients no longer have to put their health into someone else’s schedule. They no longer need to miss work or spend wasted hours in waiting rooms. They can literally take control of their health on the spot – and not put off concerns due to waiting times. There are no after-hours fees, and there is always someone handy if you need medical advice in the middle of the night. Most apps include pediatricians, who can put new mothers at ease without leaving their homes, and psychologists who can be reached anytime.
With faster internet speeds and the advancement of smartphone cameras, telemedicine has never looked so good. Most families from all socioeconomic backgrounds in America have an accessible smartphone at their fingertips. The hardest part, the technology, is all taken care of.
Digital Doctors “Without Borders”
Telemedicine successes are already happening on a large scale. According to The Wall Street Journal, Doctors Without Borders members relay questions 5 -10 times a day regarding tough cases out of Niger and South Sudan to a network of medical experts who are hooked up across the world via the internet.1
Closer to home in St. Louis, doctors and nurses work shifts in a virtual care center which exists solely to provide remote support for intensive-care units and emergency rooms in smaller hospitals across the country that don’t have a doctor on-site 24/7. Doctors can zoom in to look at a patient from hundreds of miles away and instruct on exactly what needs to be done. After all, It’s no small success when the statistics show they’ve saved 1,000 lives in the past year.2
The doctor-patient relationship has always been important to families, and some may argue that digital technology is a step away from those strong bonds. However most telemedicine companies agree that they’re simply providing an easily accessible support network to better balance your health requirements. Indeed, Teladoc states that they are “designed to support your relationship with your existing doctor and is not a means of establishing an exclusive relationship with one of our doctors.”3 By providing remote access to physicians and other health care providers via smartphone apps and other technologies, patients can get the care they need on their own time.