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Health

The medical field goes mobile; bringing the doctor's office to the palm of your hand

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Technology has always been the way of the future. The medical field, typically known for its advanced medical technology, has adopted a new form of service:  mobile.

This week on “Take Care,” health and technology reporter Jennifer Jolly discusses smartphone apps that can bring the doctor’s office to the patients. Jolly recently authored an article for The New York Times Well blog about the mobile doctor apps and how they are changing the medical field.

The average wait time to see a doctor in the U.S. is 20 days, Jolly says, even for the simplest of checkups.

Gone are the days where doctors donned their overcoats, filled their alligator skinned bags, put their stethoscopes around their necks and walked the community helping everyone they could, or are they?

Apps like Doctor on Demand or Heal might be bringing all of that back, but with a 21st century twist.

“There are apps that can bring a doctor, a real doctor, to your doorstep. They come with a doctor’s kit, like the old fashioned leather bag, that’s stuffed to the core,” Jolly says. “Then there are apps where you can do a virtual visit, so you can talk to a doctor through the camera on your smart phone or laptop. It’s kind of like Facetiming.”

Virtually, doctors have the ability to assess many problems or symptoms that most people have to wait days before they get checked out. But how do we know if these are real doctors looking at us through the camera?

“These doctors are rigorously vetted. They go through a process of interviews, qualifications, etc. They are also trained in special circumstances for these home and video visits,” Jolly says.

There is a law in the U.S. that says doctors must be licensed in the state where they are practicing, including video chat services.

“Most of them are doing it part-time. They have their regular practices and they are doing this on an on-call basis maybe one or two days a week,” Jolly says.

Jolly goes on to explain that most doctors feel rushed in the clinical setting and meeting patients at home or via video chat allows them to get to know their patients more and understand what they are going through.

Even large health insurers are starting to cover these new telemedicine visits.

“Walgreens is offering a smartphone app now with the United Health Group and Blue Cross Blue Shield jumping on the telemedicine bandwagon,” Jolly says. These companies are expected to be bringing their coverage to over 40 million costumers as soon as next year.

Jolly says that it is all about having access to the care we need, when and how we want it.

With car services that come to our doors, food apps that help us design our own meals: it was only a matter of time before the medical field went mobile.

“We are living in this on-demand society so why not have this kind of access to a medical provider?” Jolly says.

Both apps, Doctor on Demand and Heal, are available in the iTunes and Android stores.