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What Will It Take To Make Online Health Work?

“Internet 2.0″ emphasizes social networking over simply downloading and reading “content”. The world of Twitter, blogging, facebook, e mail, and text messaging is revolutioning our society and rapidly becoming a major force in the way we work and play. It remains to be seen, however, how it will impact health care. There are many, many issues that are no where near resolution.

Although, at eDoc, we have been involved in online health for over a decade, we still run up against innumerable barriers and resistance factors that prevent this modality from truly becoming mainstream.

In order for this to occur, I believe the following needs to happen:

1. The team providing the service must be of high quality. This is difficult to determine in the best of circumstances and almost impossible in the often murky, even sleazy, world of internet
2.0. Until there is a better system for this, the user must be careful to scrutinize the credentials of the professionals involved and understand the business model behind the product. Check to make sure that the physicians are board certified. Beware of industry supported sites that are, essentially, using their web site to sell another product and “giving away” medical content or advice. If possible, find someone else who has used the service and ask whether the service is reputable. If you decide to try the service, dip your foot in the water and assess the quality of what you get back. If you like what you get, try again. If not, run in the other direction!

2. There has to be a widely available method for professional reimbursement. At eDoc, we developed a business model in which sponsoring corporations purchase the service on behalf of their employees or members. Most insurance companies do not cover on line visits with a physician but this is likely to be the case in the future; and, until that occurs, most docs won’t or can’t afford to, get on line to provide feedback or information to their patients.

3. Better tools are needeed. Although there are a lot of good web sites with good medical content, web tools are just starting to be designed to take advantage of the Web 2.0 world. Good, user-friendly, secure patient and provider portals will need to be connected to eprescribing hubs, will need to readily switch to search for internet sites to attach, will need to accept and view video footage, will need capability to connect through digital cameras for real time viewing and communication, and need easy to use, menu driven drop downs that guide the patient and provider through an online encounter.

For now, eDoc has a high quality team that uses a free form communication model and offers medical, dental, pharmaceutical and mental health professional advice. We are watching with eager anticipation to see what the future brings and, hopefully, we can stay ahead of the curve and continue to offer the highest quality online heath professional experience.

Your comments and dissenting opinions are welcome…

**This blog post was originally published by Dr. Charlie Smith at eDocAmerica’s blog**


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