Are you a DIY kind of person? You know, something in your house is not working, so you look it up on YouTube and research the internet for an step-by-step solution. If you’re lucky, the process doesn't take up too much of your valuable time. However, sorting through the myriad blog posts, forums, videos and ehow’s can seem overwhelming for some situations. How about that nagging medical issue? No doubt, most folks hop online to find an answer to their medical question. How can you trust the search engines results these days? After all, internet and affiliate marketers are hard at work constantly gaming the system to get their landing pages for all those popular medical and health keywords on page one of search results. Seems like the majority of the time, those landing pages lead one to some sort of supplement, vitamin, or informational product. Savvy internet searchers know how to dismiss these affiliate sites and stick with the big names (WebMD, Medscape, and the like). Nonetheless, I’d venture that most folks spend a significant amount of their time bouncing around these supposed authority sites, only to come away more confused.
Now, how easy is it for you to reach your personal physician? Many offices have set up barriers to communicating directly with your doctor. Schedulers, receptionists, triage nurses, and medical assistants are all “walls” in the way of communicating with your physician. Not to mention that messages can get twisted like the old game of “phone” by the time it reaches the doc. Some practices offer a secure messaging portal. Again, these messages are screened by office personnel. All of these barriers are in place to keep the doctor seeing patients face-to-face in the office working at the “level of his/her license”. Also, physicians do not get paid unless there is a face-to-face encounter in an insurance-based practice. So messages generally become low priority unless flagged as an emergency.
Take out the insurance and you have a direct pay, or concierge, model of primary care. There is no longer pressure to force a face-to-face encounter. In fact, physician practicing this model of care are more than happy to answer your questions, give medical advice, fill prescriptions, order tests, and so on without an encounter. With today’s ability to hold virtual consultations, electronically prescribe medicines, x-rays, and referrals, the need for a face-to-face visit seems to only be reserved for certain afflictions and emergencies (think lacerations and broken arms). Chronic medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, and even some skin conditions (who doesn’t have a camera on their phone?) can generally be managed virtually. Grasping this concept in a healthcare system that still uses legacy technology such as fax machines and inefficient paper intake forms has proved to be difficult for all players -- doctors, patients, pharmacies, hospitals, imaging centers, and the ultimate middlemen - the insurance companies.
However, the up and coming generation of healthcare consumers are going to demand quick, convenient, and mobile access. Reluctant to pick up the phone, and certainly intolerant of being put on hold or voicemail hell, they will follow the pathway of least resistance. Texting, chatting, video conferencing, and communicating on the go from the comfort of their home (or office) will be not only expected, but the norm.
Employers may indirectly benefit the most from this evolution in healthcare delivery. Rather than excusing their employee for 2-4 hours for a “doctor’s appointment”, they can direct them to their business’ online concierge physician for a quick 15 minute virtual consultation. Less time away from work equals more productivity, which would more than pay for the nominal monthly retention fee of a telemedicine doctor.
So, whether you spend time searching the internet, scheduling a face-to-face appointments, or missing work, it is your time. Your time is valuable. May it is time to consider signing up for your own private doctor, online. Your doctor. Your time.