By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TVBy Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – Ever had a sick child in the middle of the night or want some quick medical advice but can’t get your doctor on the phone? As Dr. Mallika Marshall reports, more and more patients are choosing to consult a doctor, face-to-face, and online.

Going to the doctor when you’re sick may soon be a thing of the past. That’s because a face-to-face interaction is now just a click away.

Telehealth companies, like Boston-based American Well, are growing almost as fast as demand.

“We have a lot of patients out there that are saying, ‘I have a flu right now,'” said Dr. Roy Schoenberg, president and CEO of American Well. “‘I can try to schedule an appointment that’s going to be there in about three days, but by then who knows?’ And having a physician available right in their pocket just makes tons of sense to them.”

It certainly makes sense to Joanna Ming of Arlington, who used American Well’s mobile App when her 3-year-old daughter, Lia, had a fever.

Joanna says being able to talk to a doctor 24 hours a day, in the comfort of her home, is very appealing.

“I’m a busy mom and just take my phone out, log on, and there’s a doctor within two minutes,” Joanna explains.

Dr. Lauralee Yalden, who helped counsel Joanna when her daughter was sick, is actually based in New York but is licensed in 26 states, including Massachusetts.

She says there are many patient problems that can be addressed safely online but adds, “When patients call in and they need someone in person or a more acute level of care, we just refer back to the community.”

And as the technology evolves, there will be fewer limitations on what can be handled remotely.

Telehealth kiosks are popping up at companies, factories, college campuses, and public spaces, allowing employees to have a fact to face interaction with a doctor. They are also equipped with devices that provide the doctor with a patient’s vital signs, heart sounds, even a camera view of a rash or suspicious mole.

One thing is clear: Telehealth is here to stay.

“Telehealth will become the first line (of) defense,” said Dr. Schoenberg, “You will actually get in front of the physician through your phone first before you go to the urgent care center or the ER. And if you’re treated regularly by a physician, that will be prevailing way of an interaction, and that’s going to happen so fast, it’s not even funny.”

A doctor visit on the American Well mobile App is $49, but it is often covered by insurance so you may only get charged a $10 or $15 co-pay.

American Well will also be partnering with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts on a Telehealth pilot, which will be announced soon.

Dr. Mallika Marshall

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