Friday, January 14, 2011

MDs and Skype - The House Call

Doctor Will Skype You Now: More MDs Use Web for House Calls:
In the winter, a mountainous region of California that the locals call the Grapevine is plagued by severe weather. The highway that winds through it is coated with snow and ice, making travel between central and southern parts of the state difficult and, sometimes, nearly impossible.

During these stormy outbursts, Dr. Gregory Smith, who specializes in treating chronic pain and prescription drug abuse, can't make it from his office in Los Angeles to his Fresno clinic. Two years ago, his only options were to reschedule appointments or cancel altogether.

But now, Smith uses his computer webcam to "see" his patients. He estimates the video technology enabled him to save 350 to 500 appointments this year.

"It's almost as good as being there," said Smith, whose two clinics have more than 1,300 patients.

Web-camera doctor appointments have their benefits and their drawbacks. Free online video-chat services let doctors check in quickly with patients, which can be more convenient for both. They let sick patients keep their germs at home, rather than bring them to an office. And doctors in some specialties, such as plastic surgery, use the technology to extend the reach of their practices by having e-consultations with patients in far-away cities.

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