New house call goes virtual from some doctors

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) Americans are struggling with healthcare, whether it's living without insurance, the long wait once you're in the office or trying to find the right specialist, the fight to stay healthy can be overwhelming.

So what are your other options? WMBF News Anchor Heather Biance has a unique solution that brings new meaning to house call.

More and more options are popping up online to help connect physicians to patients, even those who've never met before.

When Rodger Hoffman wanted a second opinion about a recommended surgery, he joined the growing number of people who went on the web for insight.

"The doctor was able to ask me specific questions about my history of the injury and look at my hand and the condition that it was in," Hoffman explains.

In this case, Hoffman was 5,000 miles away from his doctor. They could have corresponded through email, but as you know there's a lot that can get lost in translation.

Edwin McCampbell, M.D. says, "There are lots of examinations that are not visual. You have to listen to your stethoscope or touch or palpate the area. And that won't happen online."

So Rodger decided to try something new, a service gaining popularity known as 2nd M.D.

It's one of many online services, similar to American Well, Teladoc and Consult A Doc - all sites that match patients with doctors regardless of their area codes.

Founder of 2nd M.D. Clint Phillips, says the site is designed to bring the specialists to the patients in need without the cross country trip.

"Most of the people who come to our site have a diagnosis, so they are trying to find out what are the next steps. Where should I go for surgery? Do I need the surgery? Do I go to a different type of doctor?"

Phillips founded 2nd M.D. after his daughter had a stroke during birth.

"We were told to fly across the country to be able to have simple questions answered that we didn't even know the doctors had the answers to," recalls Phillips.

The American Academy of Family Physicians sees more and more of its members going high tech with care, but feels it's important to point out, you can only get so much help from a physician you never physically meet.

"It really is more of a conversation and information sharing. They make a clear and, I believe, appropriate distinction that it is not the delivery of medical care and they describe that specifically that it's not diagnosing and not prescribing treatment," states Glen Stream, M.D., AAFP President.

Local specialist Dr. Edwin McCampbell always suggests a second opinion, but he's not 100 percent convinced tapping into the online resource can replace the old fashioned visit to the doctor's office.

"The more people you bring to the situation the better, the more knowledge you bring to a situation the better. Now, whether that's online or not I'm not so sure," McCampbell speculates.

So how much does the convenience of seeing your doctor in the comfort of your home cost? On 2nd M.D. you can expect to cough up between $80 to $400 for 20 minutes, with the prices based on what type of specialist you're looking for.

For Hoffman, he says it was worth every penny.

"I spent more time with Dr. Eaton over the internet than I do in a standard office and face to face with my physicians," claims Hoffman.

Copyright 2012 WMBF News. All rights reserved.