Online Doctors

What do third-party bureaucracies and government regulations have in common? Eventually, entrepreneurs will innovate around them:

Online companies with names such as “MDLiveCare” and “RingADoc” are diagnosing and treating common conditions such as allergies and the flu over the Internet or on the phone… They cater to time-pressed consumers, who, for an out-of-pocket payment ranging from $25 to $40, can talk on the phone or chat online with a doctor or a nurse practitioner. Some employers offer the services as part of their health plans.

Comments (7)

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  1. Bruce says:

    Markets work. Well, okay. Eventually they work.

  2. Larry C. says:

    All you have to do is look at the other professions –the engineers, architechs, lawyers, accountants, etc. — to see what the practice of medicine might be like without third party payer bureaucracies.

  3. Brian Williams. says:

    I’m sure Congress will find a way to regulate this out of existence. To the average politician, online doctors don’t make sense.

  4. Joe S. says:

    I don’t think Congress will regulate it out of existence any time soon. Instead, this will be part of a growing porfolio of services that will be offered outside the insurance system.

  5. Virginia says:

    It might help solve the doctor/nurse shortage.

  6. John Lilly says:

    In Springfield, MO, the Cox Health system has online office visits and St. John’s is going to start next year. I’m a family physician and love the idea. I don’t need to see very common illnesses in the office.

  7. Seamus Muldoon says:

    When I was a Pediatric resident, a mother brought her son to our Adolescent clinic one Friday afternoon just before closing time. “Are you still open?” she asked breathlessly. When reassured that we were, she blurted out, “Oh, good. I think my son has a cold, and I was afraid he would be better by Monday!” After examining the boy I reassured her, “He does, and he will!”

    Think about that for a minute- “I was afraid he would be better by Monday!”

    What’s my point? Well, for many or perhaps even most common ailments, you could seek advice from Scooby Doo (either in person or online) and treat it by standing on one leg and howling at the moon, with a perfectly fine outcome, because your condition is self-limited. The difficult part for patients is knowing when a given symptom is indicative of a more serious problem, and the difficult part for physicians is being talented or experienced enough to detect the less frequent but more serious condition out of the larger pool of frequent but benign conditions. Unfortunately, the current atmosphere encourages overutilization by both patients and physicians. “Well, you probably do have a cold and you probably will be better by Monday, but I’m going to run a panel of blood tests and order an MRI of your sinuses just to make sure!” Do we really have a shortage of primary care physicians or have we trained an entire population to seek medical care at the drop of a hat while simultaneously distrusting the judgment of their physician? After all, perhaps they read something different on a website or heard a pharmaceutical ad that encouraged them to “ask their doctor” whether they might have a treatable condition known as “fill-in-the-blank”. “You just haven’t run the right test yet, doc!!”