Telemedicine is growing in popularity, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. This concept may be new to you, or you may be wondering if it would be a viable alternative to a traditional medical appointment. Here’s a closer look at telemedicine, when it can be used, the potential benefits to both patients and providers, and how to determine whether it’s a good option for your practice.
Telemedicine, as its name implies, is the practice of providing health care via phone or video, instead of face-to-face appointments. With a telemedicine appointment, or medical e-visit, the patient has a virtual appointment without needing to travel to your medical office.
Telemedicine is being used in a variety of ways, including to diagnose minor health issues, provide follow-up care after an injury or surgery, monitor chronic health conditions, and provide mental health services such as counseling appointments.
Benefits of Telemedicine
Telemedicine offers benefits to both providers and patients. First, it can help make he less expensive and more accessible to patients. Convenience is another factor — patients can seek medical care for many conditions without leaving home, even if they’re hundreds of miles away from the doctor’s office. As for providers, they may be able to spend more time with patients via telemedicine appointments, yet see more patients during a typical day.
Telemedicine can help reduce overcrowded emergency rooms and urgent care centers as patients use e-visits to diagnose minor injuries and illnesses and determine whether emergency care is necessary.
How Does Telemedicine Work?
A telemedicine appointment may be brief or more complex, depending on the patient’s needs. In general, a medical e-visit involves a doctor and patient sharing information through an application or platform, on a smart phone or computer. The patient and health care provider exchange information the same way they would at a face-to-face appointment, with the most significant difference being that the physician can’t conduct a physical exam.
As telemedicine grows in popularity and the demand for it increase, more platforms are available to access it. Most smart phones and newer computers have webcams that are sufficient for telemedicine. Before an appointment, both parties should make sure that they can log on to the platform or app, and that their video and audio are working well.
Telemedicine Is Used in a Variety of Ways
Telemedicine isn’t for every medical situation, such as an emergency or severe injury. However, there are many times it can be appropriate, including the following:
- Minor conditions — If a patient has a minor health complaint like a cold or flu, skin condition, or a sprain or other minor orthopedic injury, a telemedicine appointment can enable a physician to determine whether additional medical care is necessary or the patient can treat the condition without a traditional visit.
- Follow-up care — For patients who have seen a doctor already, or have had surgery or another procedure, an e-visit can enable the physician to follow up without the need for another office visit.
- Treating chronic conditions — Patients who have a chronic condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, can use telemedicine to keep in touch with their doctor without making an office visit. Mobile medical equipment makes it possible for health care providers to monitor health data and adjust medications or treatment protocols according to that information.
- Medication management —Telemedicine can be used to help ensure medication compliance, which can have a significantly positive impact on the overall health of your patients.
The Future of Medicine Is Telemedicine
While telemedicine may not be appropriate for every patient and every situation, its convenience and cost-savings make it an important role in health care. The accompanying infographic highlights some of the benefits of this relatively new way of delivering health care.
Author bio: Dr. Yan Katsnelson is the founder of USA Vein Clinics, the largest, national network of vein treatment centers committed to improving lives through minimally invasive treatments of venous insufficiency. USA Vein Clinics specializes in the treatment of varicose veins and spider veins through endovenous laser treatment (EVLT), ClariVein, Varithena vein treatment, ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, and sclerotherapy injections. USA Vein clinics offers in-person and telemedicine vein consultations.
Graphic created by USA Vein Clinics, now offering virtual doctor visits.