Doctors don't make house calls anymore; these days, the expectation is that if you need to see the doctor, you will travel to them. That's fine for some people, but with increasing healthcare costs, declining numbers of primary care doctors, and the simple difficulties of traveling, sometimes long distances, to see the doctor, that's just not possible. Enter online doctor consultations.
Online doctor services
won’t replace regular physicians any time soon, but for many simple illnesses and ailments, they can be more convenient and less expensive than seeing your regular doctor or visiting an urgent care clinic. So why might an online doctor consultation be right for you? Convenience
When you – or your kids – are sick, the last thing you want to do is get dressed, get in your car, and drive to the doctor’s office. If you rely on public transportation, getting to the doctor can be even more frustrating. This is particularly true when you know that you just have an ear infection or need a refill on an allergy medicine, for example.
In these situations, being able to contact a doctor online can help you get the care you need without leaving your house – and without infecting other people. Better than self diagnosis
You can find just about anything on the internet, and that includes information about any disease you might have, have had, or could have in the future. The problem is that the medical information presented online is virtually always incomplete, and unless you have a medical degree, it can be hard to tell what is reliable and what is overblown fiction.
Too many people either read blogs and poorly referenced medical sites
to decide that their problem is awful – or nonexistent. Because it’s difficult to travel to the doctor, they may then avoid getting the proper treatment, or try risky home remedies to fix the problem.
Being able to reach out to an online doctor can help ease worried minds. Parents can be reminded, for example, that leg pain at night in a child is often growing pains, and that unless certain other things are happening, there’s no need for them to worry. Doctors can also help people understand when it’s fine to stay home and try to wait out an illness, and when it’s time to go to the emergency room. Less expensive
One common reason for people to avoid their doctor’s office is the expense. High deductible plans look great when you’re considering the monthly premium, but when you realize that you’re paying out of pocket for your doctor’s visit until your deductible is met, it can be difficult to justify going to the doctor – you may simply not be able to afford the visit.
A consultation with an online doctor generally does have a fee associated with it, but it can be much less than seeing your doctor at full cost, and it’s almost always less than the cost of going to the emergency room, especially for something that ends up being a more minor issue. Online doctors can help you figure out when to stay home, when to drive to the ER, and when to call an ambulance, for example. 24/7 availability
Some doctors offer the ability to be contacted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, using after hours paging and call center services to reach them. But those services are not infallible, and not all offices offer the service. Some offices simply tell you that if there’s an emergency after hours, go to urgent care or the emergency department at the hospital.
Again, this can leave parents and patients in the lurch. Some kids, for example, have ear infection after ear infection. Parents know that antibiotics are going to be necessary
, and that technically they can wait until the next morning to be seen, but when their child is suffering right now, that can be hard to wait for. Online doctors can’t prescribe everything – certain psychiatric medications or sleep medications, for example, can’t be prescribed online – but they can generally prescribe simple antibiotics or allergy treatments. This can help people get through until they can make an appointment to see their regular doctor.
Online doctors aren’t going to replace physicians soon; an online doctor can’t set a bone, stitch a wound, or treat a heart attack. They can’t evaluate a patient who may need an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. They can’t diagnose conditions that need a culture, like strep throat.
But for a lot of minor issues, online doctor consultations are a less expensive alternative to traditional physicians. They can both prevent unnecessary emergency room visits, keep people from using “doctor Google” to decide what’s wrong with them, and generally help people get basic care in a convenient way.
So next time you have a minor condition that needs a doctor’s help, consider contacting an online doctor for a consultation before you assume you need to drive all the way to your primary care doctor’s office.