Op-ed: With Teladoc, the doctor will see you now … really!

  • By Cal Thomas
  • Wednesday, November 8, 2017 9:13am
  • Opinion

If you’re tired of the dysfunction in Washington — the backbiting, the questioning of motives, the failure to agree on much of anything, the one-upmanship, the allegations about a “stolen” presidential election, Russian “collusion,” the posturing and boorish behavior, how about focusing on something that is working and benefits a growing number of people?

Consider a company called Teladoc, which provides access to a doctor through a computer screen, telephone, or mobile app. The waiting time, a company official tells me, is between eight and 10 minutes. That beats any doctor’s office I have ever been in, even with an appointment. The company claims a 95 percent satisfaction rate with 92 percent of issues resolved after the first visit.

Here’s how it works. Say your child wakes up in the middle of the night with a fever, or some other health issue. You go to your computer, phone or mobile app and describe the symptoms to the doctor, who then prescribes treatment. It can be in the form of a prescription or, if the symptoms seem more serious, the doctor will recommend a specialist, or a trip to the hospital. The doctor has previously been provided your family’s medical history through the app.

Teladoc services are offered through a subscribing company’s insurance plan. The company currently serves 10,000 clients and 20 million members, according to a company spokeswoman. All physicians are board certified and licensed in their respective states. They are available any hour of the day or night and every day of the year. Is your doctor that accessible? Unless you live with one, probably not.

The cost? A low $40 to $45 per session.

Jason Gorevic, Teladoc’s CEO, tells me: “Consumers of health care are looking for a better way. Regardless of the political environment, there is a growing demand for a better way to provide medical services to individuals.”

Gorevic says Teladoc is especially helpful to people living in rural areas where a doctor is not close by, or unavailable.

Reporting on this growing and popular trend in telemedicine, health care writer Bruce Japsen wrote in Forbes magazine: “Health plans see a way for patients to get high-quality care from a physician and the potential to avoid a more expensive trip to a hospital emergency room.” Teladoc executives also say they are seeing growth opportunities in mental health, dermatology and smoking cessation programs.

Japsen adds that the field of virtual medicine is growing about 10 percent per year with projections it will soon reach 26.9 million, which seems likely given the current spurt.

Gorevic sees increasing interest from health plans that contract with state Medicaid programs for poor Americans, as well as Medicare Advantage plans that provide benefits to seniors. This could save time and money by reducing trips to emergency rooms for less serious ailments.

Let’s review: A health plan that bypasses government bureaucracy; rapid access to a doctor who knows a family’s medical history; prompt treatment, or quick referral; low cost — what’s not to like?

It is another example of how the private sector, when it is allowed to innovate and flourish, outshines the federal government almost every time.

Virtual medicine, led by companies like Teladoc, is not the wave of the future, but of the present.

If you’re unhappy with increasingly expensive, impersonal and slow access to medical care — and some liberal politicians are already pushing for single-payer, which would likely make waiting times longer and lower the quality of treatment — you might feel a lot better, while saving money and time, by going virtual.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

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