Posted by: nickgerlich | April 28, 2008

Doctor, Doctor

Sometimes I am amazed by how quickly people adapt to major changes. In spite of the kicking and screaming, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, they quiet down after a little bit, and get on with their business. Almost as if nothing happened.

And so we have been fairly quick to embrace the idea of shopping online, buying airline tickets, renting cars, and making hotel reservations without using a phone, and perhaps even submitting our Form 1040 to the IRS. Wany people now feel comfortable obtaining legal counsel at sites like LegalZoom. My students are also living proof that we have gotten over the idea of an electronic classroom with virtual degree programs, as demand for our online offerings continues to grow.

DoctorBut are we comfortable with that most personal of human interactions going online as well?

I’m speaking of the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors may very well be the last hold-out in the dotcom era, as they have been rather reluctant to login and join the fray.

In spite of the fact that we have scads of online medical sites (like WebMD) that allow us to research medicines and diseases, I have no doubt in my mind that the medical profession actually despises these advances. The result is a waiting room full of self-diagnosed hypochondriacs who simply need a doc to write a prescription for their terminal illness. The abundance of online information from well-meaning sites makes it possible for me to conclude that my tummy ache is really Stage 3 colon cancer, when in fact it may just be last night’s Tex-Mex dinner duking it out in my Alamo.

So is the medical profession the neo-Luddites of the 21C? Good question. But maybe the docs are right in holding out. There are fears of liability stemming from any form of online communication, even email. What if the doc isn’t able to answer your email in a timely fashion, and you are in need of a new script for your asthma meds? Or you are a Rush Limbaugh protege and have spammed a dozen docs seeking the same prescription from all of them for your own pleasure? Or worse yet, what if the doc misdiagnoses your ailment and sends you on your merry way with the wrong treatment?

Can you say malpractice?

Not all docs, though, are leery of the 21C. The Fetal Treatment Center allows individuals and their physician to connect with a team of specialists at UC-San Francisco. But while this is a step in the online direction, it should be noted that there is still a middleman involved, that being your local physician. It’s not just you and your cable modem.

While I am unable to visualize a home lab kit for do-it-yourself X-rays and blod samples, I would like to be able to reach my doc when my request is as simple as needing a new script to refill something that he knows I need for long-term treatment. I don’t want to have to visit or even call; I’d like to just drop a simple email and have him forward his approval to my pharmacist.

And I’ll let my insurance carrier figure out how they want to pay him for his time.

Dr “Give Me The News” Gerlich


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