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The Digital Doctor Will See You Now

Online appointments offer speedier access to non-urgent medical care

Like wireless Marcus Welbys, doctors will soon perform more house calls by computer or phone — good news if you're sick of waiting for appointments. With many docs overbooked — wait times in metro areas such as Boston average 63 days, notes one new study — remote access can make your doctor less remote.

 

Virtual House Calls

— Masterfile

This year OptumHealth, part of UnitedHealth Group, plans to introduce a national system, the NowClinic, that offers 24-hour physician access. All you'll need is a computer or phone and $45 for the ten-minute chat. Some retirement communities already use the Intel Health Guide, a remote monitoring system that records patients' blood pressure and weight and lets off-site providers access data.

But telemedicine, though valuable, shouldn't completely replace office visits, says Bill Russell, M.D., vice president of clinical informatics at Erickson Retirement Communities: "A good primary care physician should come to know their patient as a whole person, not just as an e-mail buddy."

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