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Health and Fitness News

Virtual Doctor Visits

Get a diagnosis, treatment plan, and prescription without stepping foot in the doctor’s office.

Telemedicine has been available for a number of years, but thanks to COVID-19, it’s making a bigger splash than ever. Don’t want to sit in a crowded waiting room? Call your doctor to schedule a virtual appointment. Contagious and shouldn’t venture out of your home? Telemedicine allows you to stay in contact with your doctor while protecting patients and physician staff from infection.

Is telemedicine the future of medicine? It may just be.

If you’re wondering how telemedicine works, what it’s used for, and its pros and cons, you’re about to find out!

How It Works

The terms telehealth and telemedicine are often used interchangeably, but telemedicine is actually a branch of telehealth. Telehealth encompasses all health services that use telecommunication technology, while telemedicine refers specifically to the medical services provided by a clinician. The World Health Organization describes telemedicine as “healing from a distance.”

With telemedicine, you see your doctor from the comfort of your own home. Modern technology through the use of video conferencing that is HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant makes this possible. Similar to FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype, telemedicine allows you to see and talk with your doctor in real time, without the risk of infecting others or the hassle of leaving your home.

What It’s Used For

While COVID-19 has pushed telemedicine to the forefront of healthcare, it has been used to diagnose and treat patients with a variety of health conditions for years. A few of the common conditions diagnosed and treated with telemedicine include allergies, asthma, colds, flu, arthritis pain, respiratory infections, stomach viruses, insect bites, pink eye, sinus infections, rashes, sore throat, bladder infections, sprains, strains, and more.

And primary care physicians don’t have a monopoly on telemedicine. Certain specialists such as radiologists, mental health professionals, pediatricians, and dermatologists also utilize telemedicine. So the next time you need to see a doctor but don’t want to leave your home, ask if your specialist offers telemedicine services.

Tele-Pros

In general, telemedicine benefits both the patient and provider. By meeting online, patients and healthcare workers are protected from exposure to germs. Additionally, people who live in remote or impoverished areas where quality medical care is hard to come by can receive the care they need. For individuals who can’t leave the house for one reason or another, telemedicine makes it possible to still get care. With telemedicine, you don’t have to leave your house, deal with traffic, or sit in a waiting room to see your physician. This makes it easy for people with a busy schedule to see their doctor during lunch break or after work.

For medical professionals, the software, equipment, and training to provide telemedicine may be expensive upfront, but telemedicine has the potential to reduce healthcare costs over time. Because visits are performed online, providers can see more patients without needing more office space or additional staff. The healthcare process may even work more efficiently with technology that integrates telemedicine software with medical records. Another great benefit is the drop in unnecessary emergency room visits and their associated fees.

Tele-Cons

While telemedicine has clear benefits, there are potential downsides. Is a patient’s privacy protected? Does telemedicine follow healthcare laws and regulations? How will the appropriate parties be reimbursed or billed? Laws regarding telehealth policies vary in each state, making the answers to these questions more difficult.

Beyond the legal questions, talking to a doctor via the Internet is not the same as communicating in person. By meeting online, you lose the interpersonal connection. Because there is no in-person physical examination, there is a greater risk for errors in diagnosis. And by having telemedicine visits with various doctors, you may lose the continuity of care.