Virtual doctor visits -- the future of American medicine arrives

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What if you could visit a doctor, any time of day or night, without leaving your home, and that doctor could review your history, diagnose your problem and phone in a prescription? That's the pitch for the cutting edge of insurance-driven health care, the virtual clinic.

And this is not pie-in-the-sky: The UnitedHealth Group in Texas offers its NowClinic virtual visits to anyone in the state for $45. Play the Take a tour video to see your health care future unfold.
The software running the Texas program is provided by American Well. The system has much to recommend it. You the patient can log in, choose the physician you would like to see from those available, and have an immediate real-time conversation, including (and this seems crucial to me) video conferencing, if you are so equipped.

If the Obama administration's initiative to move medical record-keeping online is successful, these doctors could also access your medical history to aid them in diagnosis. The physicians can write virtual prescriptions and phone them in to the pharmacy of your choice.

I'm guessing that public opinion will be sharply divided on this idea. People who feel hands-on care is worth the inconvenience of travel and prescheduling will be very troubled by the prospect that they could eventually be forced into using a virtual clinic. (I'm still not happy about how my health care provider has forced me to abandon my local pharmacy in favor of mailing for my meds, by invoking a large out-of-pocket price difference.)

For many rural residents, however, for whom medical care is a long distance and time away, this could be a useful tool. It could also be a useful intermediary step for those wondering if a doctor's office visit is warranted.

What's your opinion? Would you be willing to pay an online virtual visit to the doctor?
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