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  Industry Profiles:
Free Online Docs at americasdoctor.com
Service is Funded by Referrals

Online self-helpers can now talk to a doctor online, for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at AmericsDoctor.com. "We have a doctor waiting to talk to you, instead of the other way around," said Scott Rifkin, M.D., President and CEO. "Sure, there's tons of medical information on the Internet, but many patients would still rather ask a doctor about their health concerns. Unfortunately, most doctors are not that easy to reach. With AmericasDoctor.com, you don't have to wait till your own doctor's office op ens. And you never have to worry about interrupting your doctor at night or on the weekends."

Here's how it works: On AOL, click on the Health Channel and select "AmericasDoctor.com." On the Web, go to americasdoctor.com. Click on "Ask a Doc." You will be asked to enter your zip code, state, and type of question. You will then be offered a choice of talking to a physician in a chat room or sending the doctor a question by e-mail. Visitors who choose to chat with a doc may encounter a wait at busy times of day. When I tried to get in at 11 PM one weeknight, there were 62 people ahead of me. But at 9 the next morning, the doctor was waiting when I got there.

You enter a virtual room where you can ask the doctor any number of health-related questions. Most conversations take ten minutes or less. The online docs provide medical information and explain medical conditions but cannot diagnose ailments, prescribe m edications, keep medical records, or provide continuity or follow-up care. After your question's been answered, the online doctor asks if you'd like a local referral in case you should need additional care. If you say yes, the online doc takes your number and a local sponsoring hospital calls you back within 24 hours. Those with emergencies are advised to go to a local ER.

The service is funded by the hospitals that get the referrals. There is no cost to the patient. Rifkin said that the company's staff of 110 physicians currently talks to about 6,500 visitors per day.

Published in The Ferguson Report, Number 3, May 1999


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Copyright © 1999-2003 Tom Ferguson, M.D. The Ferguson Report is a free e-mail newsletter published at unpredictable intervals for the friends and associates of Tom Ferguson. ISSN 1520-5487