Telemedicine has become a vehicle to strengthen engagement between patients and doctors by connecting them in real-time via phone or online. Thanks to telemedicine, medical professionals can now evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients using technology like video conferencing and smartphones — all without the need for an in-person visit.
And with technology only becoming an even bigger part of the way we interact, telemedicine is likely to serve an important role in healthcare today and in the future.
Though we live in a digital age, there are still myths about telemedicine, online doctors, and new digital options for medical care. That said, let's bust 10 common telemedicine myths.
Reality: Telemedicine doctors are board-certified and licensed to practice in your state. These doctors live in the United States and face rigorous training and credentialing, so you’ll always get expert advice on your non-emergency medical condition.
One note: A telemedicine doctor shouldn't replace your primary care physician. Having both a primary care doctor and telemedicine can improve the quality of your healthcare and gives you access to a doctor for almost every medical scenario. Meet with your primary care physician to address health issues that your telemedicine doctor doesn’t cover.
Reality: Telemedicine doctors can treat illnesses such as the flu, conjunctivitis (pink eye), bladder infections, yeast infections, acid reflux, and skin conditions. Certain telehealth professionals can also provide treatment plans for mental health services, like the treatment of depression, anxiety or stress. An official diagnosis is provided for each of these respective illnesses and health problems after a telemedicine doctor assesses your condition.
What telemedicine doesn't include are emergency-related health concerns such as stroke, heart attacks, and major accidents. Always call 911 in those situations.
Reality: After you talk to a doctor online and get an official diagnosis, your online doctor can prescribe you medication to treat your condition. Your virtual doctor will then submit prescription orders to your pharmacy of choice.
Reality: Finding free time to go see a doctor during the week can be challenging, especially if you have a "9 to 5" job. But telemedicine gives you access to medical professionals at any time, so you can likely schedule an appointment at a time that works for you.
Through a HIPAA-approved technology platform, you'll get access to care 24/7, 365 days a year. As a bonus: You'll avoid commutes and waiting room delays. This advantage helps you keep your busy schedule on track while still receiving quality healthcare on a regular basis.
Reality: Doctors can sometimes rush in-person appointments because of their packed schedules with many patients to see in a single day. Telemedicine appointments, unlike a traditional in-person doctor’s visit, can free you from potentially frustrating time restrictions. Your online doctor will stay on the call as long as you need to ensure you receive the quality care you deserve. And they'll make sure all of your concerns are addressed before the appointment ends.
Virtual doctors also have no maximum visit capacity, so you can connect with online providers as much as you'd like. You may also be able to request a specific doctor for your visit, depending on your plan benefits.
But remember the reality of myth #1: All telemedicine doctors are board-certified and state-licensed. You are meeting with healthcare professionals who are qualified to assess your condition, provide an official diagnosis, and follow-up with proper treatment recommendations.
Reality: You might dread the thought of a face-to-face virtual consultation over webcam or FaceTime, but most telehealth providers allow you to talk to a doctor through an online chat or by phone. Telemedicine services can typically accommodate your request if you'd prefer to connect with your doctor in a non-visual way.
Reality: Virtual doctors aren't a good option for emergencies. But they can treat over 40 common medical issues including:
If you prefer to manage most of your standard healthcare digitally, then telemedicine covers a wide range of illnesses for quality care that you can depend on.
Reality: We live in a world of Uber Eats, Instacart, and Amazon - all have goods and services you can order from your couch. With telemedicine, you can talk to a doctor from the comfort of your own home, too.
In other words: Connectivity is king these days. In fact, studies show that 40% of millennials view telemedicine as a "very important" option for their health care.
Reality: Individuals and employers alike may see lower health care costs when using telemedicine over urgent care services. In fact, one study estimated that patients save approximately $100 on an average telehealth visit, with $75 of that devoted to health care costs and the other $25 to travel and time spent seeking care. When you consider the convenience of this innovative healthcare option paired with the type of savings you can potentially expect for your digital visits with online doctors, the value of telemedicine services really begins to stand out.
An important call out: Telemedicine isn't insurance, but many insurance companies offer a telehealth benefit or allow you to purchase it as an add-on to your plan. Check with your insurance provider to see if telemedicine is a covered benefit.
Reality: Privacy is always a concern. But all telemedicine companies have to comply with the same rules hospitals and the doctor down the street do -- all relevant state, national, and international regulations, including the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). And all telemedicine technology, including video chat systems used to conduct patient appointments, must pass HIPAA compliance.
In other words: Your medical information is protected, and it won't be shared without your consent. Strict laws and regulations keep your medical files safe and away from parties that have no legal right to view this personal information.
We work with telemedicine partner, Teladoc, a company that offers a large network of board-certified doctors and pediatricians who provide virtual healthcare anywhere at any time. Telehealth services offered through Teladoc depend on the plan you choose, but services can cover everything from everyday medical problems to mental health concerns.