Hawaii's Online Health Care Service Launches

Paul Lilly

Hawaii residents can now visit their physician without ever leaving their home. It's not that house calls are making a comeback, but the 50th state becomes the first one to offer online physician visits. Available 24/7, ailing patients and hypochondriacs alike can spend one-on-one time with a doctor over IE7 or Firefox 2 and above, and even load up a webcam to show exactly what that nasty infection looks like.

Hawaiians insured through HMSA (Hawaii Medical Service Association, the state's largest insurer) are charged a flat $10 fee for a 10 minute online visit, while non-members pay $45. In return, doctors are instructed to apply the same standards of care and to address only issues that can adequately be handled over the phone or web. Prescriptions can also be written, if there's a definitive diagnosis during the 10-minute visit. But while this new practice will cut down the number of people cluttering emergency rooms, proponents warn that it's not a replacement for real emergencies.

"I don't think this situation can completely replace one-on-one doctor's visits," said Michelle Shimizu, a family practice doctor who has been helping test the system. "It's an adjunct to that."

For the most part, doctors receive $25 for each session, an amount which "has been received tremendously," according to HMSA marketing VP Michael Stollar.

Would you feel comfortable visiting your doctor online? Hit the jump and post your thoughts.

Image Credit: American Well via CNet

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