Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On Line Interactions Can be Better than those in the Doctor's Office

It is sometimes said that contacting a physician online, especially one that doesn't provide your ongoing primary care, is an "iffy" proposition at best. And, truthfully, if you require lab tests, x rays, an exam or a procedure, that is certainly true.

However, for many problems, the most important need a patient has is to exchange meaningful information about the condition at hand and have a clear plan about how to address it. For example, whether a specialty referral or a particular procedure or medication is needed, just to name a few of the many examples.

But, consider the possibility that, for certain situations, on line interaction may actually be superior to in 0ffice care! I have been amazed at the number of times that clients using eDoc have said that our physicians have been even more helpful for their situation than their own doctor has been after several office visits. How could this be?

On line dialogue, both for the physician and the patient, provides a much more relaxed environment to think about a response to a question or problem. There is no embarassment and, consequently, often more comfort in sharing unpleasant or personal details about symptoms. If a physician is "pretty sure" how to answer a question, but is unclear on some of the details, he has plenty of time to consult a text or a web site and review a situation briefly before he responds. Patients then have an unlimited opportunity to clarify issues or respond back to physicians' questions.

Finally, physicians have an incredible treasure chest of web sites and resources called the internet that they can use to enhance their responses with patient education materials. So, in the end, many online episodes result in a patient who is more fully informed and more satisfied with their plan than they might be following one or more brief in office visits with their physician.

So, if you have not been sure that online health is for you, try logging on and asking one of the eDocs a question.

You'll be glad you did.

Next time, I'll discuss the debate about independent research v. consulting with a physician online to answer your questions...

Let me know if you have comments or questions.


Anonymous said...

I've used edoc several times and find what you've said to be quite true. Most of my personal office visits have been very rushed - the doc being more focused on providing a good learning experience for his intern than on dealing with my questions. I really appreciate being able to research the information I receive in my online interaction because I understand so much more clearly why a certain procedure/test or med has been recommended over another. It won't replace my PCP but I certainly considered eDoc to be a valued part of my healthcare options.

Charles Smith, MD said...

Thanks much for your comment; service like ours needs to be a routine part of the health care system, but it'll be awhile.