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article imageGrowth in online medical information platforms

By Tim Sandle     Jul 7, 2017 in Health
Toronto - The Internet has expanded the different ways through which patients can access health information and many people, especially the younger generation, are turning to Internet-based doctors.
Trends suggest that “virtual doctor visits” are rapidly gaining popularity. Analysis published in Forbes forecasts a doubling of clients for such services between now and 2020. In the U.S., much of this has been driven by the health insurance system. Many insurers offer telemedicine or Internet-access services to reduce costs.
According to VSee, most common aliments that people seek advice for using Internet-based consultation services include colds and flu, plus sinus and urinary tract infections.
Cost of care
In terms of the economic model, VSee estimates that in the U.S. the cost of a ten-minute consultation with a doctor is within the region of $40-50; whereas an Internet-based medical consultation can be as inexpensive as $10 per month by subscription. In countries with alternative models of health provision, such as many European countries with socialized health systems, the growth of alternative platforms of medical delivery is not as great — although it still represents an expanding market.
Ethical concerns
Some commentators raise concerns about such models. A paper in the Journal of Medical Internet Research posed the following ethical questions:
Why would the individual consult an Internet doctor who will have limited knowledge of the individual's medical and social background and who cannot perform a physical examination?
Can this type of Internet consultation cause harm?
What role will Internet consultations play in parallel with regular health care?
Moreover, some online medical consultations are used for the purpose of prescribing and hence selling prescription drugs via the Internet, and those drugs may or may not be entirely suitable for the patient.
READ MORE: Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, Gen Z: healthcare expectations
These questions appear to feature in the minds of older users of healthcare than younger ‘consumers’ of health services.
Ask The Doctor
As an example of growth, Toronto-based ‘Ask The Doctor’, which enables patients to send questions to registered doctors, has crossed a milestone of having 250,000 doctors on the platform. These medics interact with over five million people worldwide.
Commenting on this growth in both users and supporting professionals, Prakash Chand, the founder and CEO of Ask The Doctor, stated: “We are proud to have users from every single country in the world every single day using our service. These users tell us they love using Ask The Doctor because it gives them advice in a timely fashion and clarifies any questions about their health they weren’t able ask their own doctor due to time constraints.”
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