Due to recent changes in healthcare in 2020, your next health appointment may be by videoconference, which can be a convenient and safe way to get the help you need from the comfort of home, and without exposing you to the sick people that normally frequent doctor’s offices and hospitals. You already research your symptoms and order health products online — why not incorporate a doctor’s visit among your digital activities?
So how does telemedicine work? We’ll get there, but first let’s talk about what telemedicine is.
In a nutshell, telemedicine is an umbrella term that refers to communication between you and your doctor and other healthcare professionals. It can include video chats, phone calls, emails and text messages, and communication may take place on your computer, tablet or phone. In addition to the term telemedicine, it’s also called telehealth, digital medicine, e-health or m-health (“mobile”).
While telemedicine is a relatively new way to receive healthcare, especially if you cannot leave your home or you’d rather not visit your doctor in person, not everyone offers telemedicine, so you should check with your doctor or your insurer to verify the availability of telemedicine services. That said, all you need is an internet connection and a phone, tablet or computer, and you can start receiving care in the privacy of your home. If you live in a rural area, have limited mobility or need medical care while you’re away from home, telemedicine is an excellent way to get the care you need.
So how does telemedicine work? It starts with your healthcare provider’s web portal. With a secure login, you can send messages to your doctor or a qualified nurse, refill a prescription and schedule appointments. If you’ve recently had labs or a test done, the portal can also be where you find out your results and discuss next steps. In most instances, these kinds of limited communication exchanges are faster than visiting your doctor’s office or scheduling a phone call.
But the real linchpin of telemedicine is virtual appointments, whether it’s with your doctor, a qualified nurse or a behavioral health professional or an urgent care worker. While it can’t replace some in-person doctor visits, telemedicine can help you navigate certain issues that can be diagnosed or treated remotely with a prescription that you can receive as a result of your telemedicine call. Sure, if you need a shot or another in-person medication or test, you’ll still need to go in. But telemedicine may help you cut down on those annoying check-up visits that can consume the better part of a day. For example, if you just had surgery, you may be able to schedule a video chat so that your doctor can see how you’re healing, or if it’s time to take those last stitches out.
However, if you’re not used to video chats or navigating your health care provider’s portal, you might need some practice runs with family or friends before you jump on a chat with your doctor. You may need to download an app or use a specific browser to receive the care you need, so be sure you know your way around the technology you’ll be using before your scheduled call. Bandwidth could also be an issue if you have a slower internet connection.
After a successful telemedicine call, you might still end up in your doctor’s office for some real, in-person treatment. But telemedicine is an excellent way to get the care you need in all of those in between times. Who knows, you just might find that telemedicine is a great way to beat the crowds and the wait at your doctor’s office.