Harvard Health Letter

Virtual doctor visits: A new kind of house call

A doctor shows up on your computer or smartphone, not your doorstep. Should you try it?

virtual doctor visits
Image: AndreyPopov/ Thinkstock

Getting a doctor's advice no longer requires a visit to the exam room. Thanks to videoconferencing applications (apps) for smartphones, tablets, and home computers, you can experience a virtual visit with a physician at any time, day or night. "The convenience factor is striking. You're home sick, and 24/7 you can see a doctor on your electronics," explains Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, an internist and a Harvard Medical School researcher who studies new ways of delivering health care.

Not just a fad

Virtual visits are part of the trend toward making health care more convenient, and they're already popular. "We can conservatively estimate that there will be at least a million virtual doctor visits in 2016," says Dr. Mehrotra.

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