Healthcare Technology Featured Article

May 07, 2012

Need a Doctor? Just Text or Call and a Prescription Is On The Way, with Telemedicine

Generation Y may feel it’s a real pain to visit the doctor in person, preferring instead to look things up on their smartphones or just skip medical care doctor altogether. But when you’re really sick, only a doctor will do.

But you still may not have to go in person. Enter telemedicine. Youths are using their mobile devices to be “examined” – or at least explain what’s troubling them medically to get prescriptions and care instructions – right over the phone.

Phil Galewitz Gannett writes about a young woman who felt awful but wasn’t able to go to the doctor, and after a brief text, had a conversation with a doctor on her smartphone, got a diagnosis and a prescription, all for $45.

The telemedicine marketplace is expected to double in the next four years, from $11.6 billion now to $27.3 billion by 2016. Why?

First, an aging population. In rural areas, where health care providers are too far away, people just too busy to get to the doctor.

But a new type of clinic is hoping it can help. One is NowClinic, which offers inexpensive, round-the-clock care for routine problems – often right where patients are.

The reason this has been catching on – and not just here, but overseas, too – is the proliferation of mobile devices that can hook you up with a doctor anywhere, anytime. Anytime he or she wants to be hooked up, that is!

Another reason it’s catching on? It’s cheaper. Insurers such as United Healthcare, Aetna and Cigna, and large employers such as General Electric and Delta Air Lines are pushing it, according to Gannett, and it’s only going to grow as our physician shortage increases.

Some prisons are now even offering inmates telepsychiatry.

Of course, this is not for everyone. If you think you’re having a heart attack, or your child can’t breathe after an asthma attack, the only thing to do is jump in the car or call an ambulance. There are quite a few situations where a doctor must treat you in person.

Telehealth, as it’s sometimes called, is also a way to monitor patients at home, recording vital signs like heart rate, blood pressure and even glucose levels for those with diabetes, then transmitting the readings to doctors off-site for intervention as needed.  

Clearly, this is where medicine is going. I’m not sure I like it, but it sure beats being able to read The New York Times cover to cover while waiting for a doctor.

Edited by Braden Becker

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