An individual’s health is important for the comfort and well-being of the individual as well as his/her productivity. It is important for people to get regular medical check-ups or
consult their physicians whenever issues arise. However, it is not always
possible for individuals to physically visit doctors.
Many individuals are avoiding physical visits to the doctor due to factors such as;
- Long commutes
- Long waiting lines (and times)
- The increased cost of physical doctor visits
- Busier day-to-day schedules
Luckily, the internet and related technological developments are inspiring innovative solutions to this problem. One way that the internet and related technologies have revolutionized
healthcare is through online doctors and online consultations. In advanced
cases, online doctors are able to diagnose and treat patients with the help of
wearable technologies and the Internet of Things.
Public Opinion of Online Doctors
All indications are that people are receiving the concept of online doctors and online consultations positively. In a survey of 5,000 consumers, 19% of the respondents reported
that they had visited doctors virtually. On the other hand, 77% of the
respondents reported that they would consider virtual doctor visits.
In addition to that, IHS Markit projects that total virtual doctor visits per year
could hit 45.6 million by 2020. These statistics suggest that the popularity of
online consultations will surge.
Advantages of Online Doctor Consultations
People seeking healthcare are likely to benefit in a number of ways from online doctors and consultations;
This is perhaps the biggest benefit of virtual visits. Individuals can “visit” their doctors from
anywhere and with greater ease. Online visits are convenient in many different
- Eliminate the long wait times
- Consulting an online doctors immediately if they need to do so
- People can consult online doctors from anywhere; the office, at school, or at home
- Online visits are available around the clock
- Online visits make it easier for people with special and complex needs to visit doctors
- Virtual healthcare providers store patient information such as medical history, reports
and records online. Subsequently, it is easier to access and retrieve information
in future visits.
- Eliminating International boundaries
Online doctors make use of the internet to provide services to their clients. Thanks to smartphones, laptops and tablets, people have access to on demand services. So basically, anyone with an internet connection can access online doctors from any part of the world. This is especially beneficial for people who need specialized healthcare that is not locally
Online doctors eliminate the need to commute which in turn leads to cost and time savings. Moreover, many online consultation service providers charge significantly lower than physical consultants.
In some cases, online doctors even provide their services free of charge. In contrast, physical visits may cost as high as $150 to $200 per visit without insurance in the United States. In Canada, visits to specialists may cost up to $90.
People seeking online healthcare from foreign healthcare providers also benefit from affordability.
This is because they do not have to incur additional costs such as air tickets
3. Preferred Over Self-Diagnosis
The growth and development of the internet has made it easier for people to search for and access on. One effect of this is that a significant proportion of people now use the internet to self-diagnose.
In the United States for example, a Pew survey found that 35% of adults self-diagnose online. In Canada, research suggests that the numbers are even higher. For example, in a 2013 Ipsos survey, 55% of Canadians reported self-diagnosing online.
Unfortunately, online self-diagnosis comes with a wide range of risks and dangers. For example, one may misdiagnose himself/herself and take medication or other measures that are
not needed. This may in turn make the individual’s health condition worse. In
some cases, wrong self-diagnosis may even lead to new and long-lasting issues.
Online doctors and online consultations enable people to continue using the internet for their healthcare needs. However, online consultations involve views and opinions from actual and
qualified doctors. Their professional opinion is more reliable.
4. Privacy and Confidentiality
People are not always willing to consult familiar doctors on sensitive health issues or medical
topics. Patients may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed discussing sensitive topics. With online consultations, people can talk to online doctors with greater confidence since they are relatively strangers.
Disadvantages of Online Doctor Consultations
Nonetheless, there are also shortcomings with online doctors and online visits.
The Risk of Inadequate or Misinformed Assessment
The success of online doctor visits depends greatly on the quality of information that the patient
offers. Unfortunately, patients often forget or ignore symptoms. In some cases,
they miss the symptoms or give wrong information knowingly or unknowingly.
Miscommunication of symptoms results in misdiagnosis and ultimately to
In view of this, some experts suggest limiting the role of online doctors to second opinions.
1. Limited Applicability of Online Care
While online doctors have
made healthcare more accessible, they are not always applicable. For example, physical
doctor visits are more ideal for emergencies that involve physical injury.
Many experts also recommend physical doctor visits for issues such as; drug and substance abuse, mental health, emotional issues and other serious conditions.
2. Risk of Misuse and Unethical Behavior
Online healthcare may also foster an increase in drug abuse and other unethical behavior such as selling illicit drugs. Drug addicts may find it easier to fake symptoms and get prescription drugs for purposes of abusing them.
3. User Security and Confidentiality
Cyber security is a significant issue for internet related technologies. Despite advances in
securing online data, the potential for malicious attacks is high.
4. Lacks a Personal Touch
One of the major features of online consultations is interactivity. Patients are able to interact and communicate with online doctors. However, this interaction is online-based and lacks any
real intimacy or trust.
Factors to Consider For Online Doctors
People looking for online healthcare services should consider a number of factors;
The internet is full of both real and scam doctors. It is therefore important to countercheck whether the online healthcare provider has the necessary licensing and certification.
Licensing and certification bodies depend on the healthcare provider’s country
2. Services Provided
Online doctors also provide specific services and in specific fields. It is important for patients
to confirm whether the services they seek are available. Also, this should include confirming important details such as the cost of consultation, treatment and prescriptions.
3. Online Reviews
As the popularity of online healthcare services increases, more online reviews of these services are likely to emerge. For patients looking for online doctors, these reviews may serve as
valuable information resources. The reviews may also serve as sources of referrals.
4. Privacy and Security
Patients consulting with online doctors share sensitive medical and personal information. They must therefore consider the security and privacy features of online healthcare
providers. For example, American online healthcare providers may openly state HIPAA
compliance as an indication that they value privacy and security of data.
Websites that Provide Online Healthcare
Some of the top websites where people can access online doctors and online healthcare services are listed below:
Through MD Live, it is possible for people to consult with online doctors, counselors, psychiatrists
and dermatologists. There are three options; consultation over a mobile application, consultation via the web, or consultation via phone.
Online doctors on this website have 15 years’ experience on average and are also board-certified. MDLive doctors are also trained to use virtual technology for healthcare
applications. Patients may request to have their prescriptions sent to their local pharmacy if necessary.
MD Live doctors can handle at least 50 common medical conditions including; respiratory problems, UTI, common cold, ear problems and insect bites among others.
Urgent care visits cost $59 or less with insurance.
Individuals may sign up on this website for free. Additionally, the website has no monthly fees. Users of the website can consult with online doctors via smartphones, computers or
tablets. Doctors here are experienced, board-certified and trained in conducting online consultations and diagnosis.
Online consultations cover common medical conditions such as skin infections, fever, flu and minor rashes among others. Users may also talk to psychologists, psychiatrists or doctors
specialized in treating allergies. The Live Health Online website also offers additional services
such as treatment plans and prescriptions.
Every visit costs an average of $49 or less depending on an individual’s employer or insurance.
This website also allows online visits via phone, computer or mobile applications. Online doctors
providing services on this website have at least 15 years’ experience and are
from the 50 best medical institutions in the United States.
PlushCare offers three main types of services.
First, there are general medical services which cover common conditions such as flu. Secondly there are prescription refill services for people with conditions such as asthma, thyroid disease and arthritis among others. Lastly, it also offers labs and testing services such as allergy and
However, this website is mostly applicable in the United States. The cost per visit is a flat rate of $99. Veterans and active military personnel get a discount of $50 meaning they only
pay $49 per visit.
The board-certified clinicians in the actual physical clinics are the same ones found on the
website. On this website, online visits last between 5 and 15 minutes. The online doctors may also require pictorial evidence in some cases.
The clinicians treat a wide range of common conditions including flue, pink eye, UTI and vaginal yeast infections among others.
UAB eMedicine is one of the more affordable online healthcare providers. A majority of the visits cost just $25.
Sacred Heart Online Care
This is a product of the Sacred Heart Health System. This online center provides virtual healthcare through smartphones, tablets or a computer. The medical team is comprised of both
board-certified doctors and nurse practitioners. Visits are also easy to conduct since one may use FaceTime or even the embedded device webcam.
Online visits at Sacred Heart Online Care require no insurance. Visits are charged a one-time flat fee $49.
This Canadian healthcare provider allows people to consult online doctors on iOS devices, android devices and computers. Several healthcare professionals including counselors,
mental health experts and psychologists are available on the platform.
A notable difference between EQ Care and other websites is the different consumer packages. For example, individuals may choose to pay $49 for a one time consultation.
Alternatively, individuals may choose to subscribe to an individual plan at $30
per month billed annually. Lastly, individuals and their families may subscribe
for an annual family plan at $50 a month.
Apart from treating common medical conditions, EQ Care also offer services such as mental health care, labs and testing, prescriptions and specialist referrals.
This is one of the largest online healthcare providers in the world. HealthTap has a membership of at least 111,000 qualified online doctors from at least 141 specialties. Patients may hold virtual visits with these doctors over video, text or voice. These services are specifically available on
the HealthTap Prime platform.
The HealthTap Prime platform costs $99 per month. Subscription entitles members to an unlimited number of online visits. HealthTap also offers a free 15-day trial of the service.
Health Tap launched Dr. AI for their members, that help route patients to the right information.
This is a good healthcare website for access to Canadian online doctors. Visits are via tablets,
computers and phones. They may include live chats or video chats. Doctors on the Maple website treat common conditions as well as minor injuries.
While registration is free on Maple, members may subscribe to different service packages. Pay per visit consultations cost $49 between 8 am and midnight on weekdays (Monday to
Friday), $79 between 8 am and midnight on holidays and weekends and $99 for
visits between midnight and 7:59 am. Alternatively, individuals may opt for annual subscriptions at a monthly rate of $30. The last alternative is an annual package for individuals and their families billed at $50 a month.
This is yet another Canadian online healthcare provider. At MD Konsult, doctors deal with common conditions as well as mental health, dermatology and pediatrics among others. The online visits are mostly via phone. Cost is $79 plus taxes. They can provide sick notes if required by school or office.
This virtual care delivery service in Canada requires no video for its online consultations. However, users may access services from any mobile device after downloading the free
GOeVisit normally charges an annual fee of $49.95. Currently however, the website has waived these fees. Pay per visit for Canadians is $25 while monthly subscriptions are charged at $4.25. Non-Canadians must pay $49.95 per visit.