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Paying a doctor you have never met for advice, over the internet?

By November 14, 2008 - 3:36pm
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I was browsing the internet for some answers regarding a general ailment I had and came across several websites that look legitimate, and offer a real doctor's advice for a small fee, between $20-$40. It takes about 15-30 minutes for an answer.

Obviously, I would never had met this doctor, not know much about him or her (aside what I could garner from an internet search) and I am wondering if anyone has availed of this or what anyone's opinion of this is.

Is this legitimate? Or would I be as wise to type in my symptoms to a "symtom checker" page that many healthcare websites provide? Won't I end up having to see a doctor in person, in the end, anyway, if I don't feel better?

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ScooterGirl: I agree with Alysiak suggestion. Although the world of the Internet is changing the way many professional services are provided: attorneys, financial planners, psychics, etc. I would be cautious to solicit medical advice when I have to share my personal health information. Remember that sites offering this type of service must be HIPAA complaint unless they are an offshore site. Overseas services are not regulated the same way but at the same time you would be unable to legally go after a doctor who misdiagnoses you and was not certified by a Medical Board in the USA.

As you know, there are serious legal implications for a US doctor when providing medical advice without seeing a patient first. An exception may be if your own health insurance program offers a "triage" type of service where there is a 24/7 medical advice hotline or something like that.

To learn more about HIPAA visit http://www.dhhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/.

If the site is charging a fee more than likely they will need to collect personal info (credit card, for example) so you need to make sure that a HIPAA disclaimer is posted if you decide to do it.

There is so much reliable information available on the Internet now from sites such as www.webmd.com where you can find tons of information on many diseases, the Mayo Clinic has also a great site. But there is never a substitute for visiting a doctor in person that is American Board Certified in his/her especialty.

November 14, 2008 - 9:47pm

Just my humble opinion, but I would, personally, be skeptical of a site that charges a fee for online medical advice.

You can find so much free information from legitimate sites run by university medical departments or institutions like the Mayo Clinic, plus guidance from EmpowHer's team of medical experts.

There's also the risk of wrong self diagnosis. Best to consult your real life doctor.


November 14, 2008 - 5:52pm
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