Anthony Sanzeri, NBC Right Now Website Manager - email
There is a new twist on what used to be a mainstay of family medicine, the house call. While the practice of doctors actually treating you at home is virtually a thing of the past, more and more doctors are checking in with their patients, by texting them.
When 17-year old Cammie Valentine isn't visiting her doctor's office, she is getting a "virtual" check up through text messages.
Dr. Burgert: u r still not feeling well? ears? cammie: yeah, i'm still yucky. Dr. Burgert: give me a call after 3.
Doctor patient texting has become the new age house call, and Cammie says "It helps me um feel like she does care about like how i'm feeling."
Dr. Natasha Burgert of Pediatric Associates of Kansas City integrated electronic messaging into her practice a year ago. She wanted to find a way for Cammie to ask her questions even when she wasn't in the office, and then follow up with her about appointments and medications. Texting just made sense.
"It facilitates faster care, better care, and more efficient care on my end and the patients end." Says Dr. Burgert.
At Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in New York doctor-patient texting has become so popular that Dr. Katie Malbon has started a formal program to keep up with it.
"Text in the City" allows teens to send in anonymous questions that doctors respond to within 24 hours. The center receives up to 50 inquiries a day, ranging from reproductive health to diet and disease.
This technological trend is expected to change medicine as we know it. It has the potential to improve doctor-patient relationships by providing greater accessibility, a freer-flow of information and more immediate responses.
"There's a real thirst for knowledge. I feel that once they start sending in the text message and they get an answer, they'll keep going and they send more and more in." Says Dr. Malbon
To ease parents' worries, Dr. Burgert says she consults with them before beginning a texting relationship with any of her teen patients. And she never releases sensitive information via text.
"There's always going to be a place for a doctor visit. But I think these new tools will facilitate easier access to get there." Says Dr. Burgert.
"It's good to know that like my doctor is always there, that I can text her and she'll be right there to help me." Says Cammie.