Is an Online Doctor Right for You?
Over the past several years, digital and internet-based technologies have created all sorts of resources that can be invaluable to athletes. You now have instant access to the most recent research on health and fitness. You can shop a huge variety of supplements and gear without leaving your home. You can buy or create personalized workout routines quickly and easily. You can even receive detailed reports on your fitness level and performance.
And you can also consult with a wide variety of experts in the fields of nutrition, fitness and general health. Which is really more a mixed-bag. Largely because of the degree of anonymity inherent to the internet, people are often hesitant when it comes to trusting these online experts. This is particularly true when dealing with online doctors – a trend that has seen a steady increase recently.
But what should you know about this particular brand of digital doctor? How can you find a good one? What can they realistically help you with? Is an online doctor right for you and your situation?
Understanding The Role
Put simply, online doctors are doctors who practice medicine over the internet. But you probably figured that out already. Often, the real cause of interest (and concern) regarding this form of doctoring has to do with the more granular details. How can doctors possible be effective and reliable in this situation? Are their limits to what they can do or treat?
First, it’s important to understand that online doctors generally operate through any number of online services or agencies. As a result, the exact system used can varying greatly. Many websites allow you to text chat with a doctor – which has a number of limitations. Because the doctor cannot see you, they generally cannot provide an actual diagnosis or really offer anything beyond casual advice. Text can also make it difficult for you to trust the stranger on the other side of the conversation, which could severely restrict communication and your willingness to follow their recommendations.
Others services, though, give you the chance to set an appointment and have an actual video call with a doctor. That visual contact often makes it easier to trust that the person your speaking with is who they say they are and can provide the necessary assistance. The video connection also allows the doctor to see you so that they can gain a deeper understanding of your case and collect more accurate information.
As mentioned, the extent to which these online doctors can actually help you will also vary. In some situations, the doctor can do more than just offer advice; they can write prescriptions. And that brings up an interesting question: what sort of conditions can online doctors treat?
What Can They Do?
Since online doctors cannot physically examine you, they logically are a little restricted with regards to the conditions that they can treat. Generally speaking, most online doctors can evaluate common, minor, non-emergency injuries and illnesses. Basically, if you are dealing with an injury or other health concern that isn’t putting you in immediate danger, an online doctor could likely provide the necessary guidance.
It should also be noted that many mental health professionals have started to move their services to these digital platforms. Both psychologists and psychiatrists are available through this type of online service to assist with a variety of mental health concerns, including depression and anxiety. These online psychiatrists are often able prescribe medications when necessary.
How Much Does It Cost?
Of course, price is always a topic worth exploring whenever one is discussing a product or service. And healthcare is no different.
Interestingly, some insurance companies now offer access to online doctors or nurses as part of their plans. Typically, though, the number or type of visit available to you will be limited.
Without going through your insurance provider, there is a pretty wide price range in the online medical industry. Some of these services – usually those that are performed via text – are even offered for free. More often, however, you’re likely to pay anywhere from $50 to $100/hr for this type of visit – which makes visiting an online doctor roughly comparable to physically seeing one in person as far as cost is concerned.
Is It Right For You?
With all of this information in mind, we can return to the big question: Is an online doctor right for you?
Just like so many other aspects of health and fitness, the correct answer to this question depends entirely on your individual situation and needs. For many aches, pains and injuries, an online doctor may be able to give you some useful guidance and even provide you with any needed medication. In cases of emergencies, though, online doctors will not be able to help.
Your personal comfort level with the arrangement is also an important factor to consider. Do you feel like you can trust this person? Will you be able to open up and be honest about your health when discussing it with someone over the internet? Does the added convenience make it worth it for you to give this new form of medical practice a try?
These are all questions to consider when deciding whether or not to take your medical concerns to an online doctor.