Your “Virtual” Doctor: The Rise of App Technology in Health Care
Oct. 6, 2015
Advances in technology, such as video chat and live streaming apps, are making it easier for people to keep in touch, no matter where they are. But what happens when we apply these technological advances to the very personal act of medical care? How do we feel about visiting with our health care providers virtually â through a phone, tablet or computer screen â instead of face-to-face in the traditional way? Letâs take a closer look.
ONLINE HEALTH CARE, OR YOUR âVIRTUALâ DOCTORThe rise of app technology has led to the development of new cybermedicine apps that allow patients to interact with doctors online. These apps operate much like urgent care centers and walk-in clinics by making it possible for patients to receive medical care outside of regular office hours or without having to set up appointments beforehand. All patients have to do is open one of these apps and connect with an available, real life doctor in order to have medical issues diagnosed and treated. With the near-ubiquitous use of smartphones â or cameras on phones, at a minimum â doctors are able to check for a wide range of symptoms. For example, patients might be asked to hold their smartphone or tablet up to their eye or near their throat, so doctors can look for signs of an infection or illness. One app, HealthTap, says it has 72,000 doctors on call available to subscribers 24/7, 365 days a year. You can share photos, test results and speak live with a doctor all via your smartphone, web browser or telephone from anywhere in the world. There are different levels of plans available â it comes at a cost, of course â and doctors are able to write prescriptions and make referrals, depending on the level of care you choose. Some expect patient demand for virtual health care to increase in coming years due to several factors, including the expansion of insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, an aging population, the increase of chronic diseases and the primary physician shortage, according to advocates of this technology at CVS Health.
BENEFITS OF VIRTUAL DOCTOR VISITSVirtual doctor visits offer advantages for both doctors and patients. Some of the pros include:
- Early treatment. The convenience of these visits increases the chance of patients seeking treatment early instead of waiting for their condition to get worse, which can help save on health care costs.
- Convenience. Patients can visit with a doctor online at convenient times from almost any location rather than having to schedule appointments during work hours.