Ina Fried

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Need to Talk to a Doctor, Pronto? Now There’s an App for That, Too.

These days, the list of things you can do with your phone is a long one. Now you can add visiting the doctor to that list.

American Well is launching an app for iPhones, iPads and Android devices that can be used to connect with a doctor for a video-chat visit. A typical 10-minute visit costs $49.

The telehealth company has been doing online health visits for years now, starting in Hawaii back in 2009.

Teresa Myers, a physician in Copley, Ohio, said she has been doing online visits in her spare time for about a year now.

“I can do almost everything on telehealth that I do in my traditional practice,” said Myers.

American Well visits are available even when a regular doctor isn’t. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in 45 states. (The service isn’t available in Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Alaska and Louisiana — states that haven’t sanctioned such doctor’s visits.)

Seeing patients online, Myers said, is both more convenient for patients, and a better use of health-care resources than having those with a cold or other minor ailment go to an emergency room.

Obviously, if someone calls with pounding chest pain, Myers said she would send them to the ER — and maybe make them call 911 with her on the line. Patients are also referred to an in-person doctor if lab work or X-rays are needed. But Myers said that a surprisingly large number of issues can be handled online, including many of the things that tend to crop up at times when one’s regular doctor isn’t available.

“The only thing that is available to patients after hours is usually the ER,” Myers said. “That is not the most appropriate use of our health-care dollars when it is not an emergency.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik