So you're trying to decide if you want to give this new telemedicine thing a try? But before you can do that you want to know the good the bad and the ugly about how it works.
That's probably a smart idea.
I've spent the last three months talking with and researching every "telemedicine company" I could find. In doing so, I put together my list of the top 5 problems I've encountered and what I've observed other people dealing with.
It's also important to note that a lot of these problems have surprisingly easy solutions. That is of course if you're not looking for your online doctor to make a unicorn fly and have gold coins rain from the sky.
Let's get into the biggest problems and solutions when it comes to trying to talk to a doctor on the internet.
1. All Doctors Aren't Created Equal
As much as we want to believe earning the fancy letters MD instantly makes you a master physician, you and I both know that's not the case. Plenty of doctors slip through all kinds of cracks.
There's a good chance whatever virtual doctors service you pick will come with a few growing pains. Once you get adjusted you'll figure out which service has the most doctors that pass your test.
Solution: You're going to be playing doctor Russian roulette no matter if you go to an urgent care or talk to one on your iPad. Sniffing out the bad ones is unavoidable.
Let's be honest, not physically being in the same room as your doctor is going to limit their ability to examine and diagnose some conditions.
If you don't have the right expectations for the type of treatment you can receive from one of these services than you will quickly find yourself disappointed.
Solution: However, if do have a solid understanding of the type of treatment you can receive from a "televisit" than you will know exactly where this type of healthcare can get slotted in your health care arsenal.
3. Technical Difficulties
Technology is great, most of the time.
Even the best services aren't immune to interruption. You're probably still patching the holes in your walls from that time Netflix went down during your House of Card binge session.
Not to mention the trouble your wifi likes to start when you have something time sensitive and important to do. Just think of the field day its getting ready to have when you ask it to be ready for a video call from a doctor.
That's also not even considering the number of times your phone randomly restarts now since your children discovered it was the greatest toy ever invented.
Solution: Sorry, I think we're all in this one together.
4. Not for Chronic Conditions
This is almost an extension of number two, but it's so important to know what the service can and cannot do.
Most telemedicine services aren't designed to monitor on-going, chronic health conditions.
If you keep booking appointments for your diabetes or COPD than you might find yourself getting called into the medical principal's office.
Solution: Don't put a square peg in a round hole.
5 They're Late
If we've learned to expect one thing from the medical community is that they treat a schedule more like a suggestion rather than something that should be strictly followed.
While most of these services promise an appointment or response within minutes, sometimes things just don't work out.
I'm currently in the process of testing this out as thoroughly as possible. So far, after 12 plus visits with four different telemedicine companies, rarely do I have to wait longer than a commercial break during the Super Bowl.
Solution: If it happens once, don't worry about it. If it happens twice you have my permission to be annoyed. If it happens a third time there might be cosmic forces at work conspiring against you. With telemedicine doctors running behind schedule has become the exception, not the rule currently held in the physical world.
The Bottom Line
This type of service is still pretty new and one that most people aren't using or are aware of yet.
As more and more doctors, hospital and companies get in the game these problems will continue to improve, evolve and maybe even go away.
At the end of the day, the one thing at the center of most of your potential issues is knowing what these services can and more importantly cannot do.
Watch a mini demo of one of these doctors visits for yourself and see how it all works.