Monday, February 11, 2008

Online Doctor Visits?

It seems so:
In recent weeks,Aetna Inc., the nation's largest insurer, and Cigna Corp. have agreed to reimburse doctors for online visits. Other large insurers are expected to follow, experts say.

These new online services, which typically cost the same as a regular office visit, are aimed primarily at those who already have a doctor. The virtual visits are considered best for follow-up consultations and treatment for minor ailments such as colds and sore throats.
Wow, we don't even have to see people anymore to be a doctor.

Sore throat? Treat it. Swollen glands? Treat it. Dysuria? Treat it.

Never mind that antibiotic resistance is already a HUGE problem - it's CHEAPER and MORE CONVENIENT people! (At least at first.) Methicillin resistant staph? Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus? Clostridium dificile? Let's rock and ROLL! Prescribe, baby, prescribe! Let's see if we can make even more potent organisms! Lets give EVERYBODY antibiotics. Hell, why not just sell 'em over the counter? Who needs a doctor anyway?

But seriously. Online doctoring will be great for the majority of minor ailments and the payment structure, if true, might be a much-needed boon for primary care. But there are serious limitations that liability lawyers will love to exploit. Like what about the sore throat that is really epiglottitis? Or the dysuria that is caused by an drug-resistant STD?

Will the insurers pick up my higher liability payments that might result from missed online diagnoses, too?



Toni Brayer, MD said...

Provocative post! While I applaud the idea of finally reimbursing some of the "free" services we provide, I think there will be unintended consequences of this that will effect patients and doctors negatively. It would be better to pay an annual "comprehensive coordination" fee to primary care doctors for each patient. How about $300-400/annually. That would help cover phone calls,pharmacy coordination, emails, insurance forms, letters and the many other services that we provide for free. Phone care is not good care but if we don't start valueing the services of primary care it will be nurses doing all of it.

Anonymous said...

Call me "old fashioned", but please let me continue to be examined face to face by another human being!

Anonymous said...

Some ailments will always require an office visit. However, my patients really appreciate the occasional online consultation. In addition to saving doctors and patients time and money, it allows me to follow up with patients and maintain their health.

Anonymous said...

Online Doctor - as you said, some illnesses will always need a physical examination. However, sometimes you just don't have the time so websites like yours ( have their place. Thanks.