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Health care 24/7: New system allows patients to connect with docs online

Nicole Palma doesn’t always have the time to see a doctor. Between work and school, the 29-year-old has difficulty finding extra time to go to an urgent care clinic if she needs treatment.

But when Palma had the flu, a new service called TelaDoc connected her with a doctor at 11 p.m. – in her own home.

“I didn’t have to get dressed; I didn’t have to go out,” said Palma, of Queens, N.Y. “So, for something routine, I think it’s very convenient.”

TelaDoc is a new type of interactive system in which patients are able to obtain either a telephone or video consultation with a physician, according to Dr. Michael Bagner, an internist at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, who is a part of the TelaDoc network of physicians.

Through TelaDoc, physicians can access the system whenever he or she is available. Bagner said it can be during office down-time or at home while watching TV.

Bagner said he works with TelaDoc five days a week and sees about 25 patients a day through the system.

After the patient creates an account and adds his or her medical history, he or she has 24/7 access to U.S. board-certified doctors who can resolve many non-emergency type of medical issues – such as sinus or respiratory infections and allergies.

TelaDoc also provides health care services to patients without insurance. Annual memberships start at $30, and each consultation is $38.

“We need to have new and creative ways of accessing our patients, allowing our patients to access us,” Bagner said. “And this helps not only us – the providers and patients – but also certainly helps the entire system (by) cutting costs and providing more access for our patients.”

Palma said the experience was better than if she had actually gone to a doctor’s office.

“I didn’t get a sense of urgency with (the doctor),” Palma said. “He didn’t have that ‘waiting room full of people’ attitude. He didn’t seem rushed; he seemed (like) he had as much time as I needed to talk.”

Bagner added that a patient should use his or her own judgment when logging online.  For example, if a patient is having shortness of breath or chest pain, the patients should probably be seen by a doctor at a hospital or clinical setting.

However, Bagner noted the TelaDoc system is just another step in the evolution of health care.

“We live in a day and age of mobile phones, and people are doing everything from banking to dating mobile – why not access their health care(in a mobile way) too?” Bagner said. “It’s a different alternative to keep these people out of emergency rooms, (which) are overflowed already.”

For more information, log onto teladoc.com.