The Doctor Will Text You Now

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that even in the realm of health care and health diagnosis, there’s an app for that.  Several, actually.  This article gives a quick (if somewhat glib) overview of several popular “telemedicine services” filtered through her first-person experience.  The upshot is that you can now use an app to contact a health-care provider, discuss a situation, condition, or symptoms, and potentially even have an actual doctor prescribe medication for you – all without ever going to the doctor’s office.

While I’m at first inclined to be dismissive of such technology, I can’t say it is necessarily any worse than a typical 10-minute in-person visit with a doctor.  I don’t go to doctors, because thank God I’m either healthy or my issues are low-key enough that I don’t really stress about them.  But I talk with people regularly who lament the long lead-times to get an appointment.  Our country acknowledges we have a problem with abuse of hospital emergency rooms for treatment, but when you can’t get a hold of a doctor any other way, and you might have to wait two months for an open appointment time, it’s understandable.

Has anyone tried these apps yet?  I’m worried that they would turn out being about as helpful (unhelpful) as the nurse hotlines that insurance companies used to offer.  The promise was similar – call this number any time of the day or night to talk with a registered nurse who will listen to your situation and provide some medical advice.  We actually utilized this on one or two occasions many years ago, but the result was always the same: no matter what the situation was, the advice was to go to the doctor or hospital immediately.  Of course that was the advice – can you imagine the lawsuits if a doctor or nurse didn’t offer that kind of advice?  While I would assume these apps would be similarly cautious, the author’s experience doesn’t seem to hold with that assumption.

Perhaps the medical community is just that aware now of how desperately a solution is needed to the increasingly difficult problem of just getting in to see a healthcare professional.  If the apps are able to filter out folks who really just need an aspirin from those who need to go to urgent healthcare or the emergency room, that’s a big help.  And as the article notes, for less serious health situations – or at least situations that seem less serious to the patient until too late – the apps can provide an easier way of seeking medical advice and perhaps even preliminary treatment.

As part of  a generation that is accustomed to Googling information on everything, these apps intrigue me.  But I’d prefer to have some more input on actual experiences before utilizing them.



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