Shortly afterwards I began getting emails that "a patient has sent you an appointment request." Figuring it was a prospective patient, I checked them. My plan was that I'd forward the info to Mary to call and schedule them.
To my horror (I guess I'm naive) people who used the site had absolutely no interest in actually coming to the office. They just wanted medical questions answered online. For free (of course).
Examples of typical questions I received included:
"I've been dizzy on and off for years. I've had lots of tests and seen many doctors, but none of them can find the cause. Can you tell me what's wrong?"
"I can't afford my medications. Can you please put samples with my name on them out in your front office? 3 months worth would be good."
"I don't have time to go to a surgeon, so can you tell me if I need back surgery? MRI images attached."
"I live in Farfaraway, but am willing to travel to Grumpyville if you can cure me. I'll do this only if you offer a money-back guarantee, and cover my plane fare."
"I think my husband is more sick from taking his pills than he is without them, but he will only stop if a doctor tells him too. Can you call him and tell him to stop?"
NONE of these people were established patients of mine. As best I can tell, of the 200+ messages I received over time, fewer than 5% were within 100 miles of my office. Some were from overseas.
Besides the obvious money issues here (I have a family to support. I am not free.) is the legal one. This basically amounts to treating a patient without actually seeing or examining them. I worry enough about getting sued by patients that I do see, and don't want to add ones I don't to the list.
I finally deleted the account last year.
So here's today's advice from Dr. Grumpy: Don't even bother with these sites. Unless the idea of practicing free, legally dangerous, medicine appeals to you.