Doctor Uses Web To Give Patients Cure by Computer

Patients can communicate and get meds from doc online

Sometimes when we're busy, it can be tough to find time to get to the doctor, even when you're sick.

But now, one local doctor is changing the way he practices medicine, so that you can actually have access to him 24/7.

"I've had breast cancer, kidney cancer, colon cancer, uterine cancer and on Nov. 5, I'm going to have surgery on my left lung," said Nancy Flinn.

That's why it's important that she has access to her doctor. But at Dr. Howard Stark's office, access means something a little different.

"So on a Saturday night at 11, I might be at my computer writing him a message, saying, 'I don't know what's going on, I have these gripping sweats, I'm dizzy. What should I do?,'" Flinn said. "By morning time, I have an answer from him."

"I've had patients communicate with me when I've been in Rio in Carnival and I've had patients send me pictures of their rashes and one guy was beaten up in Manhattan and he sent me pictures of his face," Stark said.

They do it through Stark's web site, a virtual doctor's office that allows patients to do everything from make appointments, ask the doctor questions, even get prescription medications.

"I've refilled prescriptions from the backseat of the car driving between Barcelona and Madrid," Stark said.

Stark is an internist. His office looks typical, but most of his patients rarely make a visit since they do most of their health care through the doctor's web site. They simply send him a specially encrypted email through the site, describing symptoms and Stark makes his diagnosis by electronically submitting patients' prescriptions to their pharmacy when necessary.
"It's not practical to have everyone come in for every sinus infection when they've had a sinus infection for three times already in the last two years," he said.

His only requirement is an annual exam, which can cost between $1,000-$2,000, but using the web site is free.

"If it's impossible for them to come in because of where they are geographically or it's terribly inconvenient and they would prefer not come in and just be treated, we can communicate online and it just works," Stark said.

Stark said he's been seeing most of his patients for years, so he's built a relationship with them. That makes it easier to work with them online. Patients like Nancy Flinn, who's been with Stark for 13 years.

"I can just sit down on that site and write him a message and ask a couple of questions and within a few hours, I have an answer," Flinn said.

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