In the second article in my series on telehealth I’d like to talk a little bit about my family’s experiences with a service called Dr on demand.
A few weeks ago my wife noticed a strange lump on her skin. She wasn’t particularly concerned about it but wanted to get a medical opinion to make sure nothing was wrong.
We have a child with autism at home and it isn’t always easy to get to the doctor so we decided to test out one of the telehealth services. After all, the $49 was cheaper than visiting the after hours clinic, and eliminating the two hour wait was very appealing.
Our health plan does not provide telehealth benefits so we were going to be paying out of pocket from our health savings account and could choose any provider we wanted to see. Our selection criteria were relatively simple – board-certified doctors, easy-to-use iPhone app, less than $50 for a visit, and the ability to send a prescription directly to a pharmacy if needed.
Doctor on demand seemed like a natural candidate so my wife downloaded the iPhone app and created an account. So far so good.
The app itself is incredibly easy to use. Simply press the button that reads “see a medical doctor now” and you are on your way to filling out a very streamlined version of the questionnaire that you would see in a doctor’s office.
The developers have given a great deal of thought to usability and little features such as being able to search for pharmacies near you and scan your credit card really speed things up.
Once you’re through the five minutes of paperwork you are ready to set up an appointment time. Don’t bother writing it down because your iPhone will alert you when it’s time to talk to the doctor.
My wife doesn’t recall whether she got to select the doctor she saw but since she had no personal relationship with the doctors on staff it was completely inconsequential to her. She described the doctor that the service chose for her as being “very nice”, confident, and efficient. In the five minute encounter she showed them the lump, was reassured that it was nothing to worry about, and was given well thought out instructions for what to do in the next few days.
What she does recall is that this was the easiest medical appointment she’d had in many years.
After the encounter I asked some probing questions to see if I could judge her level of comfort with using a video-based service. Would she be prepared to disrobe on a WebCam so the physician could see a rash? The answer was short and predictable. There is so little privacy on the Internet that this would be simply too far out of the comfort zone.
A less obvious question is whether she would be prepared to use this service for our children, one of whom has special needs. Surprisingly, she felt that they would be an excellent choice for the simpler ailments such as colds, bumps and scratches, or bacteria infections because the visit is so well scripted that children who need structure would probably do quite well with it. It’s also virtually impossible to visit an urgent care clinic and sit for hours in a waiting room full of strange people, bright lights, and foreign smells when you have autism spectrum disorder.
Would she accept the doctor’s recommendations without knowing them? Absolutely. Provided she had the opportunity to search on the Internet and do her own research as well. Of course, she would do the same with the information that she received from her primary care practitioner.
One point of concern that I noted was that the primary care practitioner’s name was not on the discharge sheet, and I’m not sure that they are notified about the encounter and its outcome. Is this a huge issue? I guess it depends on the patient’s situation. If they are doing repeated telehealth visits for something like sinusitis the primary care practitioner does need to know this so that they can arrange an appropriate referral to an ENT.
To summarize, our experience with Dr on demand was fabulous. My wife didn’t miss her workout and my son got to play his video game without the sensory overload of an urgent care clinic. In 10 minutes she was reassured about her condition and given instructions for self care.
If you haven’t tried telehealth yet I’d strongly recommend you give it a go and I would strongly recommend Dr on demand.