Are you ready for your digital doctor visit?
Telemedicine may become more common because of convenience and accessibility, even beyond the pandemic. Here’s how it works.
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Going to the doctor might be getting easier.
Many of us have already been shopping from home, and now we’re working and helping to educate our children from home, too. But with the number of COVID-19 cases rising daily in the U.S., many of us may begin to seek more of our health care from home as well.
As hospitals become flooded with people carrying coronavirus, the risk of infection from a hospital visit potentially rises. Virtual doctor visits performed over the phone or internet could be part of the solution. These virtual visits, also known as telemedicine, allow patients to consult with a doctor without a physical visit to a healthcare facility.
Telemedicine has been possible for years, but has varied in accessibility and adoption among both providers and patients. According to this report, the coronavirus has prompted many changes to make it more accessible, including a number of telemedicine services now being covered by Medicare, the federal medical program for citizens over 65.
Telemedicine benefits include:
- Social distance. It removes the patient from the doctor’s office, so telemedicine allows for physical distance from other patients and medical staff.
- Cheaper visits. Most health systems charge less for telemedicine visits (but at least one study found this encourages more use, so your mileage may vary).
- Flexible scheduling. Telemedicine can be more convenient and efficient for scheduling and appointment, according to one survey from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
How telemedicine works
Local health care systems across the country began exploring virtual options even before the pandemic. Generally, there are two ways to interact digitally:
A direct video or phone consultation, where patients talk directly to a health care provider
Online medical portals, where patients can access test results, manage appointments, request prescription refills or message their doctor
For direct consultations, providers usually keep regular hours. Patients 18 years and above can simply complete and submit a questionnaire, and the nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant usually responds within an hour or so with a care plan and prescription.
How to prepare for a digital doctor
More health care systems and insurance providers are now offering options for virtual visits. Some even have apps available to download. Check with your health care provider and insurance company to find the best solution for you.
When you are preparing for a virtual doctor visit, just remember these tips for new virtual health users:
- Make sure you have a good internet connection. You don’t want to lose signal during your visit.
- Have your list of medications on hand while registering. Be sure to include any drug allergies.
- Have your insurance card nearby.
Virtual health care providers have treated thousands of patients over the years. For people unable to get to a doctor, and in the age of social distancing, this kind of care could be a meaningful alternative health care option.