No one enjoys going to the doctor’s office. The wait times are long, everyone appears to be contagious and you’d much rather be in bed. What if you could chat with your doctor from the comfort of your own home? What if you could interact with your doctor using the same tool that you use to Snapchat your friends? Many different telemedicine companies are hoping that soon you will be doing just that.

The company  Doctor on Demand, hopes to save you that pesky trip to the doctors office by encouraging you to call a doctor from the confort of your own smart phone, tablet or computer. The doctor is accessed instantly and costs $40 dollars for a 15 minute video chat.  Founded by the son of TV personality Dr. Phil, the app has seen rapid growth since it joined the ranks of telemedicine applications like MDLive, American Well and Teladoc. Telemedicine solutions are growing in popularity in the United States, as many people are concerned about the changing state of health care and the high costs of seeing a doctor after hours. The different telemedicine companies often have celebrity doctor endorsements like Dr. Phil or Dr. Stork from the TV show “The Doctors”.  The different companies all work in a similar fashion. The patient uses the application and chats with a doctor over video, the doctor diagnoses their illness or issue and then instructs the patent on the best course of action. If the doctor prescribes any medicines, the prescription is sent to a local pharmacy to be filled. For many busy individual these services seem like a dream come true. They are cheap, fast and an effective replacement for minor doctors visits.

Say you use Doctor on Demand because you think you have a chest cold. You chat with a doctor over your smart phone screen for 15 minutes, receive your diagnosis and then have your prescriptions sent to your local pharmacy. That is a lot of very private and personal information being shared across the the internet. Although all of these companies say that they use private and secure networks, the real concern is what they do with your private health data. With everything from EKG to blood pressure being tracked and recorded online, it’s very easy to gain a comprehensive picture of a patient  The information which is shared with your family physician and your pharmacist, is also of interest to outside corporations  What if this information is gathered by insurance companies. Insurance companies would be interested in your health habits so they could adjust your rates accordingly.

When a company like Doctor on Demand is providing medical services incredibly cheaply, the first use of the service was free for the entire month of February, it is important to remember that your data and health records might be a product. Even in aggregate, health records are extremely valuable. According to Reuters, Aggregated data is used to create new data analyses which have the “potential to reach back through the system via email or pop-up ads and directly target doctors and patients – both for medical and marketing purposes.”  So remember, the information you provide a doctor over a 15 minute video chat is going to be examined long after your sore throat has healed.


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