Walgreens, the country’s largest retail pharmacy chain, has announced plans to create virtual medical services by the end of this year. The company has created an app which allows patients to see a doctor using the app on either mobile phones, tablet devices, or desktop computers.
The app would allow patients to consult virtually with a board-certified physician for less expense than a traditional doctor’s visit. The service is already available in California, and will be in 25 other states by the end of 2015.
Walgreens touts the service as a way for patients to see a doctor without long waiting lines or the inconvenience of scheduling an office visit. Patients can consult with doctors from home, work, or in its stores, and each visit costs $49. The physicians will be able to prescribe medication after each consultation.
Risks to Patients?
According to Walgreens, the virtual consultations are not meant to replace yearly physical checkups, and should not be used for any potentially seriously ailments like chest pains. Instead, the consultations are meant to be used for conditions like upper respiratory infections, sore throats, and rashes. The patient can ask the physician questions, and the doctor will be able to provide advice, medication, or recommend an in-office consultation.
While most people dread having to visit the doctor for a relatively minor condition, the virtual appointments raise the question of what happens when these virtual doctors miss a condition or illness which might have been obvious if there had been more thorough, in-person testing.
For example, many women are very familiar with the tell-tale symptoms of a urinary tract infection, and would take advantage of some quick antibiotics to stop the pain and treat the infection. However, without an in-office urinalysis or other exam, the virtual doctors may not be able to tell if the UTI is actually a kidney infection, which is much more serious.
With more and more people turning to the internet to diagnose themselves after the onset of any concerning symptoms, virtual medicine may seem like the next logical step. However, doctors go through eight years of schooling and several years of training in order to diagnose conditions that may be missed by a Google search. While the service may be convenient for many patients, there are bound to be some people whose illnesses would have been caught by an in-person consultation that will be missed online. When that happens, lawsuits are sure to follow.
At the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., our attorneys help people injured by missed or delayed diagnoses. If you were injured by medical negligence or malpractice, our experienced staff of legal and medical professionals can evaluate your case and help you understand your rights. If you would like to speak with a knowledgeable Los Angeles injury attorney, contact Bradley I. Kramer today by calling (310) 289-2600 or use our online case evaluation form to have your claim reviewed for free.