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‘Is There A Doctor In The House?’

Jan 1, 2006
2006 / December-January 2006

Have you ever become ill while traveling and found yourself in need of a doctor? The concierge in a high-end hotel may be able to supply the names of a few local physicians or, better yet, put you in touch with a practitioner whom the hotel keeps on retainer for guests. Or you could contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for a list of local physicians and medical facilities. Consular officers also can inform your family and friends of your condition and, if necessary, assist in the transfer of funds for medical expenses.

You can find detailed information on physicians abroad in The Official ABMS Directory of Board-Certified Medical Specialists. Published by the American Board of Medical Specialties, the directory is available in libraries and at U.S. embassies and consulates. The names of physicians and hospitals abroad can also be obtained through major credit-card companies.

But what about those times when the ailment is not urgent, you’re pressed for time, and you’re not thrilled with the idea of spending several hours in a waiting room? That’s when TelaDoc can come into play, offering a network of primary-care physicians available 24 hours a day year-round to handle routine health issues. Plus, you can access TelaDoc using your cell phone, BlackBerry, a hotel phone or even your home phone.

To sign up for the service, go to www.teladoc.com. The cost to register is $18 for a primary plan (just you), plus $18 for a dependent plan. Each consultation is $35. Monthly fees also apply: $4.25 for primary, $5.75 for primary plus one dependent, $7 for family (primary plus up to six dependents), with an additional $1 per dependent for more than six. TelaDoc also offers plans for corporations and associations. A personal medical-history disclosure is re-quired at registration; physicians will update this medical file with any information from your subsequent TelaDoc consults.

To use the service, call 800 TELADOC. A doctor will review your medical history and return your call within an average of 30 to 40 minutes; if a call is not returned within three hours, the consultation is free. You will receive a diagnosis and treatment plan, and if needed, the doctor will phone a pharmacy near you to order prescription medication (so it’s a good idea to ask the hotel concierge for the name and the phone number of a nearby drugstore before your consultation).

Some common medical problems reported to TelaDoc include respiratory infections, allergies, urinary tract infections, skeletal muscle pain, minor joint trauma (sprains and strains), arthritis, back problems (chronic and acute), gastroesophageal disease and gastroenteritis. Birth-control consultations and immunization planning are also routine.

TelaDoc was founded in 2002 by Dr. G. Byron Brooks, an Air Force flight surgeon with years of experience at NASA. After working in a large family-practice clinic, Brooks conceived the idea of TelaDoc as a way to use modern communications technology to improve patient access. The physicians at TelaDoc are experienced internists, family practitioners and urgent-care doctors. They are specifically knowledgeable when it comes to telephone consultations — asking the questions that lead to a correct diagnosis.

More than 76 percent of TelaDoc physicians are board certified, with an average of 14 years’ experience, according to the company. They must pass a background check to verify there are no medical malpractice claims against them. Background checks also include reference checks and confirmation of medical license status. All physicians in the TelaDoc network live and work in the United States. They speak English, though Spanish interpreters are available.

While researching this column, I contacted TelaDoc to discuss a hypothetical scenario involving a 40-something businesswoman who was experiencing dizziness and vertigo while traveling. Dr. Steven Cooley responded with medically sound and appropriate recommendations. He made a point of stressing the importance of knowing a patient’s medical history in order to assess risk and determine if a face-to-face evaluation is warranted.

I found TelaDoc to be a sensible solution for busy executives, business travelers, vacationers and students away from home — anyone for whom it just isn’t convenient to schedule an appointment with a regular doctor.


FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.


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