I’ve written a lot on this page about the explosion of travel opportunities and resources that are a result of the internet. In my mind, it is no coincidence that the explosion of the internet and the rise of globalization happened at the same time. It’s a great positive feedback loop for travel, the more resources are available online, the more people travel. The more people travel, the greater the demand for resources that aren’t tied to physical geography.
The one critical travel resource that has remained mostly free of this process is access to a doctor. Although I do believe that many people are overly cautious and scared about seeing doctor’s outside of their home countries, that fact of the matter is it would be nice to be able to see your doctor and use the resources you have available to you as their patient without actually having to see them face to face. Unfortunately, we know that you usually can’t just call up a doctor and get anything done over the phone. Well, medical services are finally catching up with the rest of the world and providing online doctor services
In some ways this seems long overdue, until you remember how heavily regulated the medical field is, and consider that medicine was just about the last industry to move from paper to digital. The whole online doctor thing started in 2002 Dr Thom Van Every, a UK trained doctor specializing in sexual health who wanted to make it easier for his patients to get answers about the sexual issues they were having. In an effort to let patients be more honest and less embarrassed, he devised an online portal for them. The service was originally called DrThom. In 2006 his service became the first online organization to register with the UK Care Quality Commission.
Not only are online doctors good for travellers, it turns out their good for everybody, patients and doctors alike. Instead of reducing doctor visits, they actually increase them, thanks to people having more access to healthcare
Of course, as soon as anything moves online, it becomes less accountable. Obviously, if you open up healthcare to online agencies there is going to be a certain degree of shadiness. That’s why you want to make sure your online doctor is with a reputable agency. Many of the big healthcare groups and pharmacies are offering online services. Stick with them. Medicine is not something you should bargain shop for in the shadier regions of the internet.
Online doctor access will never replace a good old fashioned checkup (at least not anytime soon) but there are a signficant amount of times you have to go see a doctor when really just getting his/her signature or a quick diagnosis based on symptoms will do. This is hassle enough when your down the road, but when your thousands of miles away? Its almost a life saver.