Virtual Doctor Visits

I’m listening to talk radio this morning. I find out that one health insurance company is testing a system where you go online, give your symptoms, and get a response from a medical doctor. You are charged your normal co-pay for this virtual visit.

These virtual visits are meant to enhance medical care. No more taking off work to go sit in a doctor’s office for a couple of hours to see the doctor for 15 minutes. No more pulling the kids out of school for a day to see the doctor. No more phone tag with the doctor’s office with questions.

These virtual medical visits will also make employers, who foot the majority of health insurance cost, happy because it will cut down on lost work time. Schools won’t lose money because of absent students. And the health insurance company collects the co-pay that normally goes to the doctor.

Nothing was mentioned about mental health visits. That is probably because, for the purpose of health insurance, mental health is not considered a medical problem and is therefore a separate category unto itself. But that is a rant for another post.

Now, callers to the radio program brought up the following potential problems with these virtual doctor visits.

  • privacy issues – Your medical record is confidential information. Where is the information from these virtual visits going to end up?
  • incidental findings – How often have you gone to see the doctor for one thing and, during the visit, had the doctor notice something else that should be cause for concern?

What do you think?