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New health service lets you talk to doctors online

US plan thought to be first of its kind

Talking to your doctor online could be the future of healthcare, if a new service launched in Hawaii in the US, proves successful.

The service, which is being run by the Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA), will see 140 local doctors, including family physicians, cardiologists, ophthalmologists, pediatricians, psychiatrists and surgeons available to chat online. They will be available 24 hours a day and will diagnose illnesses for a small charge.

"HMSA's Online Care is making Hawaii's health care system more accessible to patients by overcoming the constraints of time, distance, mobility, or lack of insurance," said HMSA executive vice president and chief operating officer Michael Gold.

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"Our state is an island community with many rural areas, and HMSA's Online Care will help improve access by connecting patients in those areas to physicians statewide."

HMSA said it was the first health plan in the US to provide state residents with online service.

According to the health care association, the launch of the service follows a "long period" of testing. HMSA said hundreds of patients have already tried out the service and 85 percent of participants reportedly said they had "favourable experiences".

See also: Google lifts lid on Google Health

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