Nightly News   |  March 16, 2013

Checking in with patients via text

Doctor-patient texting has become the new age house call, and it's a growing practice, especially among physicians with teen patients. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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>>> we're back now with new twist on what used to be a mainstay of family medicine , the house call . while the practice of doctors actually treating you at home is virtually a thing of the past, more and more doctors are checking in with patient busy texting them. we get our report tonight from chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman .

>> reporter: when 17-year-old cammy valentine isn't visiting her doctor like this --

>> you're eating well?

>> reporter: she's getting virtual checkups.

>> you're still not feeling well? ears?

>> yeah, i'm still yucky.

>> give me a call after 3:00.

>> reporter: doctor/patient texting has become the new house call .

>> it makes me feel like she does care about what i'm feeling.

>> reporter: dr. natasha berger integrated electronic messaging into her practice a year ago. she wanted to find a way for cammy to ask her questions even when she wasn't in the office, then follow up with her about appointments and medications. texting just made sense.

>> it facilitates faster care, better care, more efficient care on my end and the patient's end.

>> reporter: at mt. sinai health center in new york, doctor/patient texting has become so popular, dr. katie malbon has created a formal program to keep up with it.

>> your parameters are to give information, accurate, short, keep the door open so these kids keep coming back?

>> absolutely.

>> reporter: text in the city allows teens to send in anonymous questions doctors respond to within 24 hours . the center receives up to 50 inquiries a day, ranging from reproductive health to diet and disease.

>> this technological trend is expected to change medicine as we know it. it has the potential to improve the doctor-patient relationship in particular by providing greater accessibility, a freer flow of information, and more immediate responses.

>> there's a thirst for knowledge. i feel once they start sending in the text message and they send the answer they'll keep going.

>> reporter: this ease parties' worries, dr. berger says she consults with them before beginning a texting relationship with any teen patients and she never releases sensitive information via text.

>> there's always going to be a plams for a doctor's physical touch, there's always going to be a place for a doctor visit. but i think these new tools will facilitate easier access to get there.

>> it's good to know that my doctor's always there, that i can text her and she'll be right there to help me.

>> reporter: guiding adolescents when they need it most with just the click of a button. dr. nancy snyderman , nbc news, new york.