If you’re anything like me – a generally healthy, generally in-shape person – the only health issues you face are minor inconveniences that individually don’t warrant (at least in our minds) a trip to the doctor’s office. The hassle of calling to make an appointment, leaving work early, and sitting in the waiting room just doesn’t seem worth it. But then that time comes when the small things start adding up, or a slightly larger ailment appears, and you decide to take your bag-o-problems to the doctor, only to find out they could have been dealt with immediately with the right information and/or prescription.
A possible solution to this merry-go-round of accumulating health issues and dumping them on your doctor is the growing trend of consulting a doctor by phone or over the web.
While not meant for very serious or urgent conditions, these services can put you in touch with a doctor (certifications varying by service) who can offer a possible diagnosis, a referral to an in-person specialist, or, in some cases, write you a prescription.
An article in the Wall Street Journal this week profiled a few of these services and found that they generally charge anywhere from $10 to $40 for each”appointment,” which could entail asking an initial question in a forum of doctors and other users, then following up with the doctor who responds with up to three more questions, or booking a time to speak to a doctor by phone or even video chat for eight minutes.
But remember: these doctors don’t have access to your full medical or family histories like your primary care physician, nor are they able to visually examine your external symptoms, so their advice should be taken with a grain of salt. In fact, the reporter who tried these services received a diagnosis from a doctor in a forum that was later discounted through an in-person doctor examination.
Would you try one of these services? Let us know in the comments section below!
And for expert advice and information on a number of specific conditions, consult our Patient Education section on Vitals.