Telemedicine, when doctor and patient are not at the same location, is becoming more and more common. Your doctor may offer some telemedicine services, such as telephone follow-up calls, online chats or email consultations. But some doctors are available online for "virtual" care anytime. You can have a doctor's visit with a telephone or internet connection. While these services aren't the best way to treat a number of health conditions, especially those that require immediate medication or testing, it is possible to treat a variety of skin conditions this way, although your online doctor may require a video chat so he can see your condition.
Limitations of Online Care
Online care works best for mild, acute and simple conditions, for more chronic and complex conditions, you may want to see your doctor in person. Some of the conditions which are common in online care are:
Other conditions, which may not be easily diagnosed, such as "abdominal pain" because it could have several sources, should not be seen online.
Doctors are normally only licensed to practice medicine in one state. A doctor using online visits may be limited to only taking patients within the state he resides or practices medicine in. Some states are also enacting laws to help protect patients, such as requiring an in-person doctor's visit before prescribing medication.
You can check with your doctor and your state medical board to find out the laws governing online medical care in your state. HealthGuideUSA.org has a links to all state medical boards.
In many cases, prescriptions can be handled in the same way as they are when you visit a doctor's office. Your prescription can be called, emailed or faxed to your pharmacy. Under federal law, written prescriptions for controlled substances or narcotics must be presented to your pharmacy, in person. Because of this, many doctors practicing telemedicine do not handle pain management or or illnesses requiring frequent written prescriptions.
Fees and Insurance
Online medicine is normally less expensive than in-person doctor's visits, however, you will need to check with your insurance company and the doctor to find out if your online visits are covered. Many online services work on a pay-as-you-go basis and require a credit card to be entered when you sign up for the service. For this reason, some doctors only offer this type of service to their existing patients.
You may, however, be able to save time and money by the convenience of not having to leave your home or take time off from work in order to visit your doctor. Sites that offer online doctors visits should have information regarding their fees clearly posted.
Before signing on to have an online visit, find out what information and equipment you will need. For example, the doctor may want you to have a thermometer, blood pressure level monitors, an internet connectio, a webcam, a telephone or headset for audio chats. For skin conditions, yor doctor may require a webcam so he can view your condition and monitor your healing process. Knowing ahead what you will need will save both you and the doctor time and frustration later and will enable the doctor to give you the best care possible.
"Visiting Your Doctor Online is a Virtual Reality", 2009, Oct 27, Megan Johnson, US News and World Report
"The Doctor Will Text You Now", 2009, July 9, Anne Wilde Matthews, The Wall Street Journal