The Exciting Trend Transforming Medical Care Today
In this day and age, it can be really challenging to receive on-demand care from a medical professional, even if you live in a major city. A general physician practicing in the U.S. will see over 3,500 patients a year, and even though over 40% take evening and weekend appointments, some people must wait upwards of two months to get into a new practice. All of this waiting, all so a doctor can spend just 13 to 16 minutes on average with a patient, and inevitably make a referral to a specialist – who are similarly swamped with visits of nearly 3,000 a year! It is true that the recent rise of 24 hour urgent care has alleviated the bottle neck somewhat, especially for minor medical issues, but nowadays, there is an even easier way for people to receive convenient medical care — virtual health providers.
Virtual health providers use the power of the internet to reach patients more efficiently. Now some of you may be thinking, “What’s the point of seeing an online doctor? An online doctor can’t truly ascertain my symptoms or prescribe me anything.” Not so! Many traditional practices have embedded the “virtual doctor” model into their ordinary ways of doing business. One great example is how healthcare is operated in some countries where the U.S. Peace Corps maintains a presence. In Morocco, for example, each volunteer is assigned a staff doctor, but as the medical offices are based in the capital city of Rabat, and volunteers are placed all over the country, it can be challenging for volunteers to make the trip for medical appointments. Thus, the staff doctor is also an online doctor in many cases, and initial consultations are done by phone or email, with volunteers sending pictures of things that worry them to the staff doctor. This allows the Peace Corps doctor to conduct virtual triage and give fast advice, limiting trips to the capital for only urgent matters and providing peace of mind and sound directions to the volunteers.
This model isn’t just appealing overseas. In a recent study, over half of those who responded stated they would be willing to use an online doctor so long as they were affiliated with their usual provider. This model could be especially effective with the Millennial generation, who grew up with the internet at their fingertips and are often leery of in-person and phone interaction. In fact, the mental health community has already picked up on this generation’s preferences, and now companies such as Talkspace and BetterHelp are offering consultations with an online doctor or therapist confidentially via text and chat. Even though these services don’t typically accept health insurance, young people are paying the price for the convenience and anonymity.
If you’re a health care provider, this is a trend worth paying attention to. And if you’re seeking medical care, this is a service to look for to maximize convenience.