The house call is long dead. But will over-the-phone and online doctor's appointments replace it?
Mother Jones took a look at the practice of skipping the in-person doctor's appointment in favor of a phone call, an email, or even the very occasional Skype-appointment to get a prescription — and some of its advantages and disadvantages:
It's hard to say how commonly doctors prescribe a patient antibiotics without an in-person visit; there isn't much data on the practice, and there are no hard and fast rules governing it . . . A physical examination gives doctors much more information than a phone call or email; in person, the doctor can, for example, assess a person's coloring, check for swollen glands, and palpate the belly. For patients who really don't want to (or can't) come into the office, both Levy and the CDC recommend a compromise: The doctor can write a prescription that the patient can fill in a day or two if symptoms don't improve. This method is common in Europe, but Levy says that so far, few American doctors have embraced it. They should, Levy says. I'm inclined to agree: Considering the growing number of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs," the dearth of new drugs in the pipeline, and the high cost to our health care system of prescribing unnecessary antibiotics, it's safe to say that these powerful drugs should be used as sparingly as possible.
Right now, the over-the-phone appointment is limited mostly to antibiotics. The Skype-appointment (though Mother Jones notes it hasn't really taken off yet) seems like it would have a lot of potential for being used along with in-person visits. Perhaps it could be used for checking-up on patient progress after the appointment, or evaluating whether a patient needs to come in for an in-person visit.
So, what do you think? Is a virtual doctor's visit something you've tried or would like to try? Tell us about it in the comments.
Image: Luis Louro / Shutterstock.