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Virtual Doctors.... Risky Business?

Boot Camp feature for Thursday, July 8, 1999

Is it risky business or the future of medicine? I'm Fred Fishkin with Bootcamp, a report on computers and technology. While some states have been cracking down on Internet pill mills, web sites that sell drugs like Viagra to just about anyone with a credit card, a company called the Telemedicine Group is pushing ahead with plans to start seeing patients over the net starting next month. It isn't the first, our investigation a year and a half ago found a site called Cyberdocs, that was charging for virtual housecalls and in the eyes of some experts...practicing medicine in states where they weren't licensed. That practice has changed. At the Telemedicine Group, CEO Michael Chalkley says participating doctors will be located in every state...they'll take patient histories, conduct online chats and when they feel it appropriate, write prescriptions. Chalkley told us the AMA doesn't have a problem with that...

" They are not against the practice of medicine online and the prescribing of medication online as long as certain guidelines are followed."

That's not what we found in an interim AMA report written by AMA President-elect Ronald Smoak....

"Well I think that there are too many risk factors that are not identified in that type of online chat if you will, that would put the patient at significant risk."

The AMA's position is doctors should not be writing prescriptions for patients they have never seen or examined in person.