Seattle company allows you to have virtual doctor's visits

SEATTLE -- When you're sick with the flu, the last thing you want to do is wait for an appointment in the doctor's lobby, so why not see your doctor from home?

All you need is a laptop.

Seattle-based Carena launched a virtual doctor visit service this week. You stay home with whatever's ailing you or your child and log on to make an appointment 24-7. Nicey Hilton even does the dishes while waiting.

"If there's any way I can avoid that waiting room, I'm in heaven," she said.

The service, called CareSimple, simply stations doctors and nurses in their homes who handle your questions in your home. Carena doctors might work from home but must hold their virtual visits in secure rooms out of earshot of any other people to ensure the patient's privacy.

"In health care, often to find out if you have to go to the doctor, you have to go to the doctor," said Dr. Ben Green.

After a few easy questions,they might diagnose pink eye, the flu, a sinus or bladder infection, or tell you if a cut requires a stitch.

"I can look at it and tell you a bandage will be fine, you don't need to go into ER, don't need stitches and you've saved yourself a whole lot of money and time," Green said.

And time is what Hilton doesn't have.

"I've got two kids, 6 and 8, and my schedule like any working mom is psycho," Hilton said.

Hilton says she's usually hooked up for an appointment for her kids in less than a half hour any day of the week.

"Quite often they're not getting sick Monday at 9 a.m. when the doctor's office is open," she said.

Patients pay a monthly family membership of $35 and each visit costs another $5. Or the non-member fee is $85.

"The visits are about half the price of an in person visit," Green said.

While Green believes in the virtues of virtual visits, he says they should not replace all checkups with your primary care physician.