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Pros and Cons of Online Doctor Consultations

Infographic: Pros and Cons of Online Doctor Consultations

In this age of Dr. Google, it's not surprising that scores of sites now offers solution to your medical problems via online consultation. But little is known about what goes on in these sites.

I don't know if you've ever sought medical advice via online consultation services, but a lot of patients do so these days. Thanks to these platforms, you can now consult with doctors at any time and from any location. Many people, however, still firmly believe that these services are chock-full of scams, though.

So, the questions that may come to your mind are:

  • Are these online consultation services worth your time and money?
  • Are these doctors providing helpful advice?

To help you get the best possible answers, in this post, I have discussed the pros and cons of online medical consultations.

Some of the Pros of Online Health Consultation

Seeking online health advice isn't illegal, it's an effective means of getting professional medical advice. Although I believe strict regulatory guidance and administration is required to help patients avoid online frauds, but there are some clear advantages of online doctor consultations. These include:

No Location Boundaries

One of the biggest perks of these health services is that they let you talk to well-known doctors who you might not be able to see otherwise. Imagine being able to get advice from top doctors without having to travel far. This is especially great for people who can't leave their homes easily, live far from big cities, or are in places where getting to a doctor is tough.

So, if you find yourself stuck at home, living out in the countryside, or somewhere without easy access to hospitals, these services can be super helpful. They bring the doctor's office right to you, making sure you get the care you need, no matter where you are.

Better than Self-Diagnosis

How many times have you turned to Dr. Google to look up symptoms of diseases or conditions? Probably a lot, right? But it's important to remember that searching for health information online and trying to diagnose yourself can be really risky and often wrong.

Looking up health and medical articles on the internet can give you a rough idea of what might be going on with your health, but it's definitely not the same as seeing a real doctor. Only a trained medical professional can give you a proper diagnosis and figure out the real reasons behind your symptoms.

Plus, with so many websites and social media pages out there offering medical advice, it's tough to know which ones you can trust for reliable information. For example, when it comes to taking supplements, you might not even need them if you're eating a well-balanced diet. Read this article to learn more about who should take vitamin and mineral supplements.

So, while it's tempting to use the internet to find out what's wrong when we feel sick, we have to be careful. It's always best to talk to a doctor to get the right advice and treatment, rather than trying to figure it out on our own with the help of the internet.

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Cost Effective

In these days of hefty medical bills, the appeal for low-cost healthcare is strong among patients. While an average doctor visit costs around $120 - $150 without insurance, online medical consultations range from $25 to $80 without insurance.

This makes a huge difference, especially if you need to check in with a doctor more than once. It's a way to save some cash while still getting the advice and help you need from a doctor.

Secured Privacy

You might wonder why I'm talking about privacy here, but there's a good reason for it. When it comes to personal health issues, some people prefer online consultation with doctors they haven't met in person. This way, they can talk about private or embarrassing health problems without feeling judged. It's really important for them to know that their privacy are safe.

That's why online consultations can be so great. They offer a safe space where you can share everything about your health worries in private, knowing that your information is kept confidential. This makes it easier for people to get the help they need without fear of anyone else finding out.

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Slightly Better than Telemedicine Services

Online doctor consultations, although considered a part of telemedicine, offer some unique advantages. One key benefit is the ability to communicate at your own pace. You have the opportunity to carefully write out a detailed description of your health condition without the pressure of a live conversation.

Additionally, these platforms frequently allow you to easily upload and share previous and current medical reports with your doctor. This ensures that your healthcare provider has a comprehensive view of your health history, which can enhance the quality of care you receive.

24/7 Health Support: Always There When You Need It

A big plus of using online doctor consultation is that you can get help any time of the day, all week long. Imagine feeling sick in the middle of the night or having a question about your medicine on a holiday. With online health services, you don't have to wait until the next day or after the weekend to get answers.

You can talk to a doctor from the comfort of your home, whether it's late at night or early in the morning. This means you can get advice, prescriptions, and peace of mind without having to leave your house or wait for an appointment. It's like having a doctor friend who's always there to help, no matter what time it is.

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Cons of Online Medical Consultations

A recent 2022 study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, concluded that the cost and quality of care associated with online doctor consultation are uncertain and so need to be evaluated carefully.

In a nutshell, using these online services can allow you to request advice from a variety of doctors and receive multiple responses. This medium ultimately improves the chances of getting a balance of opinions. But the quality of the medical care provided by these providers is still unknown.

Despite the service has a number of pros, but it also has some cons. As more and more scammers and spammers are occupying internet, online consultation between patient and doctor also brings some potential risks. These include:

Lack of Confidentiality

As I've mentioned above, some patients choose online health advice from an unknown medical professional so that they can talk about sensitive health issues. But privacy violation is a very common issue in cyber space: Even big companies like facebook, google, and yahoo are reported to violate consumers privacy.

A New Door for Drug Abusers

There is no doubt that online medical consultation can diminish the location boundaries. But it also opens a new door for selling prescription drugs unethically. For this reason, many people think that the service is a totally fraud or illegal business.

They also believe this consultation service is provided for abusers who are willing to risk it all and try to get away with getting medications online. However, they are not wrong at all. Thousands of con websites are out there that indeed perform scam operations targeting on selling cheap prescription medications online.

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Limited Options to Evaluate the Quality

When you talk to a doctor online, it's different from sitting in their office. You don't get to see their diplomas hanging on the wall or get a feel for their office, which can tell you a lot about them. Online, you just pick a doctor without really knowing much about their background or where they work. Sure, the website's reputation might give you a tiny hint, but it's not much to go on.

This makes me think there's a bit of a mystery about who's giving you advice. Without seeing the usual clues like a doctor's degree or their office, it's harder to feel sure about the quality of care you're getting. And sometimes, doctors online keep their details secret, which makes it even trickier to know who you're dealing with and if you can count on them for help over time.

Confined Doctor Advice.

This, in my opinion, is one of the main drawbacks of online medical consultation.

Gone are the days when doctors made assessment based on the presenting symptoms and outward appearance of the patient. Today, diagnostic reports are the primary basis on which doctors assess a patient's condition.

Even if your condition is dire, the online doctor won't be able to suggest anything unless you show your most recent diagnostic reports. Besides that, top-tier physicians may not offer advice as candidly as they can in formal settings when consulting with patients online.

If you ask an advice, the online doctor may not go deep down to the root cause of your problem. They may at best suggest a few things, such as some medications, just to improve your present symptoms. Also, it is highly likely that they will advice you to visit your local GP or get some diagnostic tests done.

Not surprisingly, after an online consultation, you might even feel as though your money was wasted or that you should have saved it for a regular doctor visit.

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Some Online Doctor Sites You can try

Here are 10 online health consultation sites where you can have one-on-one consultations with doctors. These platforms provide a convenient way to access healthcare services online, catering to various needs from general consultations to specialized treatments. However, I need to mention that the following sites primarily aim patients living in the US and UK:

  1. PlushCare: Offers telehealth visits and same day online doctor appointments for primary, urgent care, mental health, and therapy.
  2. Your Doctors Online: Provides 24/7 access to board-certified physicians through a mobile app, covering a range of medical conditions.
  3. Virtually Healthcare: Offers free online consultations with NHS GPs, including video chat or phone calls, for registered patients.
  4. Teladoc Health: Provides whole-person virtual care including primary care, mental health, chronic condition management, and more through phone or video.
  5. Bupa UK: Offers private GP services remotely via video or telephone consultation, with specialized treatments and same day appointments for children.
  6. VSee: Lists various online consultation services, including This American Doc for locum staffing and HealthTap for unlimited 24/7 consultations.
  7. Practo: Allows 24/7 online consultations with over 20,000 doctors across specialties, providing a platform for health queries and medical advice.
  8. Sprint Medical: Offers free online doctor consultations for a wide range of common problems and diseases, with no time limit on consultations.

Final Thoughts

I would suggest that you should carefully weigh the pros and cons of online doctor consultations before making any decisions. These services undoubtedly have a number of benefits, including increased access to healthcare, better than self-diagnosis, cost-effectiveness, secured privacy, and 24/7 health support.

But you should keep in mind that for serious or life-threatening conditions, online medical consultations can never replace in-person doctor visits.

Wrapping up, I really appreciate your patience for taking the time to read this article. I've shared the insights and the pros and cons of using online medical consultation, all based on my own thoughts and a detailed review published in the British Journal of General Practice. This study helped shape the article. I've cited it as a source for this article. Thank you for sticking with me through this exploration, and I hope it's given you some valuable insights!

Medical References

  • Lu Y, Wang Q. Doctors’ preferences in the selection of patients in online medical consultations: An empirical study with doctor–patient consultation data. InHealthcare 2022 Jul 30 (Vol. 10, No. 8, p. 1435). MDPI.
  • Turner A, Morris R, Rakhra D, Stevenson F, McDonagh L, Hamilton F, Atherton H, Farr M, Blake S, Banks J, Lasseter G. Unintended consequences of online consultations: a qualitative study in UK primary care. British Journal of General Practice. 2022 Feb 1;72(715):e128-37.

⚠️ Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.