The Near Future
Already late for his 8 a.m. meeting with Henley, Steve is sweating it out in the slow-traffic lane. As a stop-smoking ad comes on the radio, Steve jabs the button for the all-news station. Hearing his health insurance company promoting the new stress management feature on its Web site, Steve grimaces, lights a cigarette, and punches to a music station.
Two hours later, the meeting with Henley, the last person Steve wanted on his design team, ends with no agreement on the basic plan. Steve rides the elevator down to the building entrywayfor a quick cigarette, then returns to his desk to find e-mail from his supervisor moving the project deadline one day closer and asking Steve to work out a new timeline with Henley. The word “stress” comes into Steve's mind, and, just to put off facing Henley yet again, Steve clicks his computer browser to the insurance company Web site. The “What's New?” box offers a self-test entitled “Do You Have Stress or Does Stress Have You?” Steve enters his responses, gets a high score, and is presented with a choice of recommended online courses in stress management. Steve doesn't believe that he needs a shrink, but he decides that a computerized course can't hurt. He enrolls.
Over the next few weeks, with friendly e-mail reminders to accomplish his stated goals, Steve is pleasantly surprised at how much better he feels and at how many strategies he has integrated into his lifestyle. A few months after he completes the course, Steve experiences a difficult situation at work and notices that he is losing sleep, is irritable, and feels isolated. Steve remembers that help from trained psychotherapists in stress management and relationship skills was offered through the health insurance company's Web site, and he quickly locates a therapist in his geographic community. Steve is given the option of calling the therapist by telephone or completing a therapy request form via e-mail that is automatically forwarded as a secure encrypted transmission to the therapist he has chosen. He chooses to send an e-mail.
Between sessions, Dr. Simpson reviews her e-mail and finds Steve's request, from Steve's description of his problem, Dr. Simpson decides that this is not an emergency and that there are no duty-to-warn overtones, so by e-mail she offers Steve several appointment times. Dr. Simpson also directs Steve to a Web site on which he can complete routine office paperwork (verification of benefits, initial treatment authorization, assessment forms, and release to view his medical record). Over a secure transmission channel within his company's virtual private network, Steve can fill out a brief medical history form, including contact information for his other health care practitioners. After issuing a suitable disclaimer, Dr. Simpson recommends an online article related to his work situation for Steve to review. If Steve had indicated a more serious situation, with the risk of harm to himself or other people, she would have responded to him by telephone as a first contact to gain a more thorough understanding of his immediate needs.