KPIX 02/07/2012: Do you ever put off going to the doctor because it’s a hassle or it’s too expensive? Well, now you can see a real MD and get a prescription – all from your own home and for a reasonable price. When Dr. Cho Sun treats a patient it’s not always in person, he’s also a web doctor. Any patient with a laptop and a webcam can get medical care online.

Stewart Alpert, a diabetic patient, got refills on his meds this way. “I didn’t have to spend time waiting, spend time going, sit in a big room with a bunch of sick people. I got to see a doctor in about ten minutes.” Alpert got his refills by showing Dr. Sun his medications. “He said what are you taking? I told him. He said ‘Do you have the bottles near by?’ I said yeah, and held up the bottles to the camera for him to see.”

Doctors Express in Newark says besides in person visits, it’s the first urgent care clinic in California to offer the web service with their doctors. Patients log in to the service powered by MeMD, pay the $39 fee, fill out a medical history, and the doctor is called.

The visual diagnosis works with minor cuts, rashes, or bites. For internal issues like headaches and sore throats, web doctors rely on the patient’s description of the problem. “80 to 90 percent of the time, we can base it on the statistic and past experience,” says Dr. Sun, who believes that in most cases this type of service is safe.

It worked for one patient, who chose to remain anonymous, that can’t find time between classes and work to see a doctor in person. She went online to use the service and get help for a painful wrist. She trusts the online medical help, stating “even from the questions he was asking, I think it was obvious that he knows what he is talking about.”

As the population ages and technology gets even better, virtual doctors and virtual patients will become more commonplace because they are only a couple keystrokes away. But patients have to be vigilant, there are companies popping up online using presumed doctors from outside of the country making diagnosis.

This is the 21st century version of the house call – it’s not science fiction – the future is now.

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