Health-Bitz: Online Medical Advice can be Dangerous to your Health!

Patty Baiano

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Its 3:00 a.m., your infant has been crying for 3 hours straight and you’ve tried everything that you can think of to soothe your child to no avail. Now you’re starting to worry. Or… your husband wakes up with abdominal cramps that has him doubled over in pain. “Honey, take me to the hospital right now, I have a stomach ache!”…says no husband…ever. What’s your next option at 3 a.m.?…search the internet for answers, of course.

The sometimes dangerous and possible even fatal problem with this common path of action is that for all of its virtues, the Internet has a serious problem when it comes to authenticity. While it does give the whole world a voice that can be heard from every corner of the globe, oftentimes this liberty creates legitimacy out of false information.

Do you believe everything you read on the Internet? Unfortunately, many people do, and this could produce seriously negative consequences—especially regarding health concerns.

For most, doing an Internet search for “diaper rash” is more expedient than packing the baby in the SUV and heading to the Pediatrician. But what happens when you research on a website that your baby’s bright red behind might be caused by a yeast infection, and as such, would require a topical antifungal cream? As a new mom (or dad), do you stress? Do you then search for pictures of infant yeast rashes and spend the next two hours comparing them to Jr’s bottom?

In the past, a mother may have referenced one of many baby books or official medical pamphlets for advice. Now the Internet provides access to scholarly journals, an online Wikipedia, videos of surgeries, patient testimonials, and a myriad of other online health communities and forums. All offering medical information (both true and false) in the hands of us all. This power both enables and endangers today’s connected patient.

In the hands of the general public with no medical training whatsoever, this surplus of medical information can prove hazardous. Add to that the fact that with online communities or forums, anyone can position themselves as an ‘expert.’ Heck, people can even say they’re a doctor and no one would be the wiser! No one checks credentials, degrees, or backgrounds. This explains how easily falsehoods propagate on the Internet: Inaccurate sites often link to other information that reinforces those misconceptions and rumors.

According to a 2011 Pew study, 80% of Internet users look for health information online, making medical inquiries the third most popular web-based pursuit, following only email and search engine use.

Furthermore, the web cannot personalize health consultations on a patient-by-patient basis. Many people still prefer speaking with their doctors, who are theoretically more familiar with each patient’s history. But what happens to the masses who are still without health insurance that can’t afford to see a doctor for every ‘minor’ ailment?

A close friend of mine was feeling run down and had a chronic sinus infection for weeks. Her husband and three kids developed the same symptoms. “You need to see a doctor” I told her, “you’ve been sick for way to long, something’s not right.” She told me that her husband is self-employed and they didn’t have health insurance because it was too expensive. A trip to the doctor without insurance would cost $150 each—for a family of five that’s a whopping $750 doctor visit!

Even with health insurance, how many of us have experienced the issue of “after hours” health care? (I’m not bashing the medical community here, Doctors need sleep and weekend vacations just like we all do), but as a new, nervous parent with a baby that just won’t settle at 3 a.m. we are instructed by the Pediatrician’s answering service to “go straight to the Emergency Room” …had I just known to run my pinky along her gums and find that tiny tooth poking through it would have saved me a very long sleepless night.

And what if there is a serious health problem with your baby that requires medical attention, but your online research from the “expert” says that you should go back to bed and let your baby “cry it out”? Wouldn’t you have more peace of mind knowing that you’re getting medical advice from a real doctor with a face to face in a video conference?

So where do you go at 3:00 a.m. when unexpected health issues arise and you are, literally, left in the dark? Where can you find a 24 hour, trustworthy source of live support from real medical doctors’ right from your living room? The answer is HealthTap.

HealthTap is an online telemedicine service that lets users post medical questions to doctors who will answer them within 24 hours. The platform also allows for video conferencing to access a doctor virtually; and even have a prescription written and sent to your local pharmacy after the consultation, all from the privacy and comfort of your home or office.

The interactive health company was founded by Stanford Graduate School of Business alum Ron Gutman in 2010 to “reinvent worldwide the way people take care of their health and well-being.” The HealthTap app, both for patients and for doctors, is available across a range of platforms and devices. There are versions for the web and applications for iPhone, iPad, and Android, including wearable smartwatches.

HealthTap is reinventing how the world experiences health and well-being and they’re “on a mission to help people smile and feel good every day by providing immediate access to top medical experts and their trusted health advice anytime, anywhere.”

HealthTap was selected last year as a 2015 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum for its significant global potential to make virtual healthcare accessible to everyone. To be selected as a Technology Pioneer, a company must demonstrate the ability to design and deliver transformative, cutting-edge innovations. Prior WEF Technology Pioneers include Google, Twitter, Airbnb, Dropbox, and Nest Labs.

Now you can join millions of other people who are taking advantage of HealthTap’s convenient, virtual access to the best doctors and their medical wisdom.

HealthTap has different levels of service, here’s how the plans work:

HealthTap starts with a free non-member plan that allows you to look at material that has already been collected and see how doctors answered questions from others. That’s not entirely different from finding information on the web, however the information from HealthTap is validated. This basic plan gives you the validated material, a personalized news feed, healthy living tips, the ability to securely store health tests results, and share them with your doctor. Members can download the app from their iOS play store and join FREE right now to tap into:

– Expert advice from top doctors
– 24/7 access from any device
– Helpful and personalized answers, tips, news, and app recommendations from top doctors!
– Doctor-prescribed checklists and reminders to help you live well
– Free access to an ever-growing knowledge base of doctor-created, peer-reviewed health content
– Private questions answered within 24 hrs.
– The highest standards of safety, privacy and security

HealthTap Concierge is the company’s next level pay-as-you-go medical consulting service. This is an addition to the current HealthTap services that can be delivered over the web to a computer or your iOS device. HealthTap Concierge is meant to address the three biggest problems you face when trying to get fast reliable medical advice from your doctor:

– It takes too long to get an appointment.
– It’s inconvenient to travel to the doctor’s physical office and waste time in the waiting room (while getting exposed to health risks spread by other patients).
– Doctor visits and even insurance co-pays often cost too much.

The top level of service, HealthTap Prime, is a subscription-based service that includes live, unlimited Virtual Consultations with top doctors via HD video, audio, and chat, anytime 24/7. The service is available on all devices including iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, and on the web.

HealthTap Prime is much more than telemedicine. It’s an end-to-end mobile healthcare experience that is:

– Immediately accessible: Subscribers can get unlimited 24/7 access to caring doctors via HD video, voice or text chat on their iOS and Android devices for immediate answers, advice and prescriptions to get you feeling better, faster. You can securely store your Personal Health Information and track your health activity in one place for future reference by you or your care provider.
– Completely personalized: The new interface is personalized to each member based on his or her health profile and preferences. With HealthTap Prime, doctors have the ability to create customized checklists for their patients to ensure they stay engaged and continue to manage their health after a visit.
– Utterly reliable: HealthTap provides the largest resource of doctor-curated Q&A—over 3.7 billion answers—and consumer health news in the world. Get information, advice and peer-reviewed articles straight from 85,000+ of the world’s top doctors. HealthTap vets doctors on criteria more strict than U.S. state medical boards, and every doctor in the network is a licensed physician in good standing.

HealthTap Prime comes at a cost of $99 a month, plus $10 for every additional family member. There is no limit on how many times you can contact a doctor with the service. If you live in the U.S., you can also use HealthTap to find the right doctor your specific medical concerns and personality preferences.

HealthTap will connect you directly with your doctor and other top specialists and generalists of your choice-virtually by HD video, text chat or voice with its iOS app or PC or Mac. You can also get advice and even medication refills with no wait time. Your instantaneous virtual consultation is as easy as clicking a button in a mobile app, privately and securely.

The company has more than 75,000 doctors in the U.S. to help. In addition to the live chats and interaction, the app offers more generic health tips from trusted sources, and some checklists to get you into a healthier mode of life. The program is actively recruiting additional doctors, and people who have doctors can try to get their own physicians engaged in the service. This kind of virtual health service is unique in the industry, and is in my opinion, a no brainer.

You can get more details on the HealthTap website.

Best Regards on Your Journey to Health & Fitness!

Patty B

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