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Can Virtual Doctor Visits Take The Place Of Primary Care Physicians?

BOSTON (CBS) - Finding a new primary care doctor can be tricky in many parts of New England. Just ask Heath Tenney who moved to Beacon Hill for dental school.

"I called MGH and they were not taking any new patients and the other doctors couldn't see me for like three months," he said.

Heath was able to find a same day appointment using PlushCare, an app that connects patients with a doctor through their smartphone.

"You write a little description beforehand about what you want to see him for… and you just do a video chat," Heath explained.

Plushcare doctor app
Plushcare provides physicians for virtual doctor visits. (WBZ-TV)

PlushCare co-founder James Wantuck says all the doctors are from top medical schools and they can see you for all sorts of illnesses, from the flu to chronic conditions like diabetes.

"We are taking the place of your primary care doctor," he said.

In addition to avoiding the frustration of trying to find a doctor, app users don't have to deal with skipping out of work in the middle of the day.

"We've seen people have visits from conference rooms at work, people do it from their car," Wantuck said, cautioning folks to make sure you are parked before the appointment. Heath said he had an appointment from his college library. The only real obstacle is that you need a decent Wi-Fi connection.

"I think telemedicine is finally coming into the mainstream," said Newton-Wellesley Hospital primary care physician Dr. Jonathan Snider. According to Snider, Newton-Wellesley is starting to experiment with some virtual medicine, but he is concerned about relying solely on virtual visits. "I think there is a body language. There is a human connection that is a really important part of primary care."

For Heath, who is young and healthy, it is really just about convenience. "I felt like it was the same experience of going to a doctor without the hassle of having to go there."

PlushCare doctors can send you for bloodwork or tests at a facility near you. It also accepts most major health care plans, and in some cases the co-pay is less than a regular visit to the doctor.

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