Dallas based TelaDoc is one of about a half dozen companies practicing telemedicine. Clients use the internet or phone to request a consultation, and in less that three hours a board certified doctor will call them back. But when do you call TelaDoc? Company spokesperson Amanda Bates says when your primary doctor isn't available or when you have a cough, cold or other garden variety health issue and don't want to make a trip to the office or emergency room.
"All of these non emergency conditions that you don't want to miss a half a day from work these days just to be told you have a sinus infection. Well, I know I have a sinus infection."
Medical Ethicist Rob Tenery says the booming telemedicine business comes with some possible side effects.
"I think in this climate of cost constraints, patients are looking for less expensive ways to get health care, this is just one of the options. it is problematic, at least in certain circumstances and I think we have to be very careful."
Tenery is concerned about the long distance doctor-patient relationship. Karen Trotter was diagnosed with Multiple Scleroses nine years ago. The Navy veteran says she uses TelaDoc when her prescriptions from the veterans administration don't arrive in mail on time.
"You go without that stuff and symptoms start arising to that actually put you in the hospital and that is the last thing I want."
Karen has used TelaDoc for about a year. She says the doctors have access to her complete medical history and they always ask lots of questions. Company officials say it's doctors are available 24 hours a day all year long and in todays economic climate, a thirty-five dollar phone consultation is a bargain.
"And that's weather or not you have insurance." Says Amanda Bates. "So people without health coverage, especially right now, with so many unemployed, are still able to get fast access to a doctor when they need it.
Karen stills sees her personal physician twice a year, but a TelaDoc is always there if she needs one.
"It's a backup." Karen says. "If for some reason something happens where I don't get my medicine, I use TelaDoc."
TelaDoc started in 2004 and right now has more than a million clients. That number is expected to grow to ten million by the end of the year.