Online Doctor Consultations: Are They for You?

Family Health, Featured Article, Healthy Living, Power to the Patient
on August 16, 2011
Doctors arm coming out of laptop.
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Like everything else, doctors are increasingly visible and active online. Services like InteractiveMD.com and EasyHealthMD.com offer 24-7 access to medical advice from on-call doctors. Think this service is for you? Some guidelines:

Check for board certification. “Assess a potential online physician much like one would any other physician,” says Dr. Joshua Davidson, an allergist and immunologist and verified expert on JustAnswer.com. Board certification, among other things, assures that a US-based doc will be answering your questions.

Don’t expect too much. An online doc can give you information about common signs and symptoms, potential diagnoses and medical tests, but he or she almost never diagnose you without a physical examination. Online medical advice, in short, can never replace your real-world doctor, even if it’s coming from a real-world doctor.

Do expect to pay. Doctors who provide second opinions and conduct expert research online typically charge a fee for this service. “If you decide to ‘hire’ an expert online, make sure you are very clear as to what you want to know, and what you are unwilling to pay for,” Stephen T. Wilkins, founder of Smart Health Messaging.