Using the Internet or telemedicine can save time and money for patients and providers. Insurance companies are just starting to pay for this kind of service. Though it sometimes can be more costly, and there are still some legal and attitudinal barriers, it's clearly the wave of the future. Here's a look at some trends.
- LifeMasters selfcare:
A company that services patients with chronic illnesses. Patients are enrolled in a program and use their computer to enter information about their vital signs (blood pressure, blood sugar, and even their weight). Registered nurses monitor the data, consult with the patient weekly, and alert their doctor if they detect a problem. The program does require some patient education, but this kind of care can prevent complications and improve the quality of care.
- Remote medicine:
This kind of medicine is being practiced in rural areas, where people must travel to see a specialist. If you have a disease or need a second opinion, computers are being used to transmit the data to the best possible doctors. Medicine is becoming more specialized. It makes sense to seek out the best care, and if your local provider refers you to a specialist, the Internet is a great way keep up with that person and manage your health problem.
- Buying drugs online:
The e-commerce explosion is making it possible for people to buy their prescription drugs over the Internet. (Sites include drugstore.com and CVS Pharmacy.) Patients and doctors forward prescriptions to online pharmacies and have them shipped right to their front door within days. The Clinton administration recently announced a new initiative that would permit the FDA to begin cracking down on hundreds of illegitimate online companies for drug sale fraud.
- Doctor/patient e-mail
More and more patients are communicating with their doctors by e-mail. People are taking charge of their health; often, they know more than their doctors about new treatments. It's a patient-driven trend, and it's changing the relationship.