Telemedicine: Would You Pay for an Online Visit to the Doctor?

telemedicine online doctorIf you enjoy visiting the doctor, please raise your hand.

Well, too bad I can’t actually see any of you, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that very few of those reading this actually enjoy going to the doctor.   Those that do enjoy going to the doctor might have one that they find to be very attractive.  What other reason would there be to actually like making visits to the doctor, and dealing with all that it entails  :)

Let’s face it, going to the doctor involves a number of things that are not pleasant:

  • You’re not feeling well (which is the reason you’re there in the first place)
  • You’ll have to pay for the visit via copay
  • If you need medicine, you’ll have to pay for that too
  • If there are tests or procedures that need to be done, you may have to pay for those too
  • You’ll have to leave home to go visit the doctor
  • You just might have to wait a long time at the office
  • While you’re in the doctor’s office, you might be exposed to other sick people too

The list can go on and on.

Admittedly, it’s way better to have access to health care than to have none.  And yes, we wouldn’t be going to doctors (and they wouldn’t be making solid income) if they weren’t necessary.  Thankfully we have them!

However, a few of the things on the aforementioned list of “unpleasant” things could possibly be avoided through telemedicine.  Yes, this means seeing the doctor online!  An article in The New Yorker discussed this alternative approach to seeing the doctor, and I found it to be an interesting concept to consider.

By seeing a doctor online, it stands to reason that you won’t need to leave home, and you won’t deal with other sick people at the doctor’s office.  Perhaps you won’t have to wait a long time either, or perhaps not as long anyway.  One would hope.

Would you try this?

I never have, and haven’t spoken to anyone that has either.  However, I brought it up in conversation with someone who said that there is absolutely no way that he would ever do that.  The reasoning he had is that this seems like an insufficient way to get an accurate diagnosis, and that it’s a way for doctors to see more patients in less time.  Thus, making them more money.

My view is a bit different.  I think that this might be worth it, and it could potentially work for things that can easily be diagnosed.  Something more complex or involved, I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable with it.  But for very simple issues, why not?

I’ve written before about how I had a less than positive customer service from a doctor, who did actually happen to be very good though at what he did.  The process was painful though, as I had to wait over an hour past my appointment time after driving quite a while to get the office.  Not to mention that the actual visit was incredibly short and I had very little time to ask a question.

Doctors, in my view, are customer service providers – albeit very important ones.  While we might be limited in terms of choices based on insurance, we are generally free to go to doctors we feel best meet our needs.  That being said, the “competition” for our service might be somewhat limited to geography.

If we could remove geography as a barrier, perhaps things get a little bit more competitive for them.  Maybe this will work in our favor as customers, in terms of better service or – optimistically – downward pressure on prices that are charged.  Supply and demand, right?  Or, it can be as simple as just giving us a little bit more convenience in terms of not having to leave home to see the doctor, as we explored earlier.  Kind of like a modern version of a house call by a physician.

Bottom line:  Based on the factors and conditions I mentioned above, I would be open to considering an online doctor “visit” in the future.

My Questions for You

Have you ever seen a doctor online?

If not, under what circumstances would you be open to it?

Do you share the view that doctors are essentially customer service providers?