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Online Podiatry: Is the convenience worth it?

It seems you can do almost anything on the internet these days. You can get a degree online, talk to librarians, even purchase pretty much everything from snow blowers to ancient artifacts. But is the internet the right place to get medical care?

Several companies have started offering consultations with physicians online. They generally treat less serious or chronic conditions, such as the flu, pinkeye, or diabetes. When you decide to sign up for the service, you often pay a yearly or monthly subscription fee, and then a per-visit fee. You create an online account that details your medical history, then you interact with a physician or nurse practitioner through a video chat, phone conversation, or email exchange.

Proponents of these online services tout their convenience and privacy, and suggest that the service would be especially useful to those without healthcare coverage (although online doctor visits may be covered in some health plans).

Unfortunately, there’s really only so much you can do with an online visit. It’s true that you can give your medical history and chat about your symptoms with a doctor, but he or she can’t really examine you, except through video and your voice. When it comes to feet in particular, a podiatrist’s ability to examine your foot is often essential in making an accurate diagnosis. And this long-distance diagnosing may make a physician miss clues to the underlying conditions that may be causing your symptoms. These services may be convenient, but are they really the best healthcare you can receive? For getting your foot injuries and conditions treated, I’d recommend going to your local podiatrist for an in-person evaluation.