The Doctor Will See You Onscreen

MARCH 10, 2014, The New Yorker

One night last summer, when I was working as a medical student in an emergency room, a woman pulled me aside. Her left eye was pink and looked painfully irritated. She had been waiting for hours to get it checked but would have to leave soon to catch a train home. How much longer, she asked, before she could be seen?

We buy groceries, trade stocks, and chat with friends across the globe without getting out of bed. Yet seeing a doctor remains a fantastically old-fashioned routine: minutes of medical attention can cost hours spent in transit or in a waiting room. When the price of losing that time gets too high, we might not even bother to be seen.

There’s a potential solution to this problem: using technology to deliver health care remotely. That approach, known as telemedicine, involves locating available doctors over the Internet and connecting with them, at a moment’s notice, using video chat. Telemedicine lets you see a doctor whenever and wherever you want, freeing you to choose a doctor based on merit rather than location. It can also improve the quality of medical care and reduce costs.

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