3 Telemedicine Apps Everyone Should Know (Just in Case)

Here's how to use your smartphone to get top medical care and information any time, any place.

By Damon Beres
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine July 2014

doctor appsAdam Voorhes, Courtesy Doctor on Demand

YOU’RE SICK, you’re sniffling, and you’re wondering if you need to upend your life to get to the doctor. You may not need to, thanks to new “telemedicine” apps that aim to revolutionize medical care. Now, a doctor can use an app to scope out your sniffles via video chat, prescribe medicine, and track symptoms from afar. It’s fast, easy, and reliable, which means you can spend more time on rest and chicken soup. (Of course, for anything that needs much more than that, you should still talk to a doc in person.)

Remote-care apps allow you to contact a doctor and bolster a relationship, whether you’re a caregiver in the suburbs or a busy patient in a city. Here’s how the latest apps may change your health-care future.

YOU WANT: To Talk to a Doc Right Now
TRY: Doctor on Demand

It’s 2:45 in the morning. You wake up because your four-year-old is coughing—hard—and her forehead is burning up. You’re exhausted and worried, and you’re not sure whether to wait and see if she gets better or to head to the emergency room pronto.

Thankfully, you don’t have to decide. Use the Doctor on Demand app, and you can get an educated opinion from a board-certified MD. The app offers 24-7 access to U.S.-licensed physicians specializing in internal medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, and more. When you open the app, you’ll enter symptoms and any allergies, plus any medication you (or your child) are currently taking. Then you’ll video chat with a doctor in your area for a $40 fee. The doc can talk you through symptoms, prescribe meds, and refer you to a local specialist—or the ER—if she decides it’s necessary.

YOU WANT: To Text Your Doc About a Chronic Condition
TRY: Pingmd

Your tan is fading, so you’re wondering about that dark splotch remaining on your chest. Or your pain is better after a new medication you started, but now you’re wondering if that stomachache is a side effect. Don’t you wish you could have a chat with your doc without visiting the office?

Enter Pingmd. The app allows patients to shoot concerns to their own doctors via text, video, or picture whenever they want. Doctors then respond directly or pass the message along to a colleague or someone else in their network. Every “ping” is saved in your medical record for future reference. That means your doctor can keep an eye on your condition and let you know if you need to come in for a visit. The service is free for patients—but if your doctor isn’t one of the nearly 10,000 using the service, you’re out of luck for now.

YOU WANT: Answers to Some Confounding Questions
TRY: HealthTap

We live in an era of information overload, so online searches on topics like anxiety and specialized diet plans are liable to return conflicting, or even dubious, results. For the lowdown, you talked to your doctor, but now you want more details or a second opinion. Where do you turn?

Consult HealthTap. It connects you to more than 50,000 doctors and dentists from across the country for peer-checked answers to medical questions. You can search for topics of interest—everything from ADHD to wilderness medicine—and ask a question of your own. Doctors will respond and review each other’s answers for accuracy, so you can get a variety of opinions and look for a consensus.

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