Online physician diagnoses come under scrutiny

MDLiveCare, RingADoc and other companies that offer diagnostic and treatment services online or over the phone are drawing scrutiny from state regulators about the definition of a doctor/patient relationship, USA Today reports. Critics of such services wonder if conducting medical assessments of patients seen by webcam--or not at all--might miss signs of more serious conditions than the patient claims to have. The newspaper says a Colorado physician prescribed an antidepressant to a 19-year-old California student through an online pharmacy. The student committed suicide, while the doctor was convicted of practicing without a license in California and was sentenced to nine months in jail. "None of these systems deal very well with undifferentiated problems of patients," American Academy of Family Physicians President Dr. Roland Goertz says. Purveyors of online consultations see themselves not as a replacement for primary care physicians but as a convenience, like walk-in clinics. Meanwhile, at a meeting coming up in March, the Federation of State Medical Boards plans on revisiting a 1996 policy governing online communication. Article

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