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Telemedicine is the delivery of healthcare services from a healthcare provider connected over the telephone with a patient who needs treatment. The appointment, diagnosis and treatment plan are all discussed during the appointment, which can be conducted via phone call or video chat.
Telemedicine is also referred to as telehealth because more and more doctors, nurses and patients are using the service for services beyond medical appointments but for physical therapy, mental health treatment and more.
As technology advances, telemedicine and telehealth services are poised to transform the way many of us receive healthcare. By receiving non-emergency medical care over the phone, many of us can save time and money that would otherwise be spent setting up appointments, commuting and actually meeting with a doctor. We can log on to our telemedicine provider 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and seek an appointment with a physician right away. Even better, for routine matters that require a prescription, the physician can call the prescription into the pharmacy of choice for pick up.
Typically, the patient (or legal guardian) will request an appointment with the telemedicine provider and then a physician will call the patient. The doctor and patient will discuss the symptoms and the doctor will ask many questions about the symptoms and treatment already received. Once the physician has made a conclusion about the diagnosis, they will communicate their decision and if a prescription is required, they may order a prescription from the pharmacy of the patient’s choice.
There is a surprising amount of conditions that can be treated via telemedicine. It can be a quick and effective way to handle routine illnesses like a cold or flu, sinus or bacterial infections, conjunctivitis (pink eye), yeast infections, bladder infections and more. Telehealth professionals can treat patients for allergies, skin infections, rashes, moles, acid reflux, and arthritis as well. In addition, mental health conditions such as depression, grief, anxiety, stress and more are frequently treated through telehealth providers.
It is important to remember that telemedicine does not cover emergency situations like heart attack, stroke, accidents or injuries. For emergency situations, review your health insurance network options and consider whether you should go to urgent care or the emergency room.
The people who benefit the most from telemedicine and telehealth appointments are those who are not able to go into a doctor’s office and require routine care that can be handled by a telemedicine provider.
Telemedicine is particularly helpful to those who are pressed for time. For example, workers who cannot afford to take time off for a doctor’s office visit can call a telemedicine provider and resolve routine health matters over the phone at a time they prefer.
Approximately 20% of U.S. residents live in rural areas and travel great distances to see a doctor. Because it can take so much time to travel and receive the routine care they need, many of these patients go without care. The U.S. government is so concerned about this issue that the Federal Communications Commission is spending $100,000,000 to expand access to telemedicine to rural areas.
Although each telemedicine program is a little bit different, you can expect to pay a monthly fee that starts at $12.95 per month for an individual and slightly more for a family plan. There is usually a cost for each telephone appointment which ranges from $20-$40. Telemedicine is not insurance so any costs from the telemedicine will not apply toward the deductible or be discounted by a health insurance network.
Unfortunately, telemedicine and telehealth services are not typically covered by insurance. Look closely at your insurance policy to determine if it covers telemedicine or telehealth. If you can’t find out, feel free to call their customer service number to see if this service is covered.
While most telemedicine is conducted over either a mobile phone or landline, telemedicine is evolving to allow for video use, too. Some telehealth providers are video-capable and can conduct the appointment from Skype, Facetime and other online video applications.
There are certain uses for video appointments that may be particularly helpful. For example, physical therapists can demonstrate real-time exercises and techniques much better via video than they would be able to over an audio-only call. Some telehealth providers are video-capable and can conduct the appointment from video applications so long as they are HIPAA (health privacy protection laws) compliant. If you’re worried, always ask your provider, whose responsibility it is to ensure whichever platform being used, Zoom, FaceTime, Skype etc., maintains the privacy of your health.
Telemedicine can be purchased online at www.healthinsurance.com or through other sites that sell telemedicine. If you have insurance from your employer, check to see if your employer’s plan provides you with telemedicine services. If not, there are many affordable options available. If you are looking for a telemedicine plan, some things to think about are the types of services included. Some telemedicine providers focus on routine medical appointments while others offer more services like physical therapy, diabetes counseling, mental health, dialysis counseling and more. Review the doctors and providers listed to determine if they fit any specialist needs that may arise.
Like any other business, telemedicine and telehealth providers recruit doctors, nurses and practitioners who they believe have the skills and training to provide the best outcomes for the patients.
The best way to know if your doctor uses telemedicine is to call their office and ask. Another way to find out which doctors are in the telemedicine network is to contact the telemedicine provider and either look up the doctors online or call in and ask. Many times, the doctors will vary with a telemedicine provider because they are scheduling doctors to cover peak and non-peak hours for appointments. As a result, the doctors typically do not have standard hours but work around the needs of consumers as determined by the telemedicine provider.
There has been a lot of speculation that the increased use of technology and especially mobile technology would drive patients to using more and more telemedicine and telehealth services.
Approximately 77% of adults in the U.S. own a smart phone, which would enable easy access to telemedicine and telehealth services. However, adoption has been slower than predicted. Even so, the use of telemedicine and telehealth is growing. In part, the growing rate of telemedicine is due to awareness. Until patients try the telemedicine and telehealth services, they are not sure of the quality of the service or the outcomes. As more telemedicine users share their experiences, more people will likely be open to trying it.
It will come as no surprise that millennials are particularly keen to use telemedicine. Millennials are known to have close relationships with their technology and to have a high trust factor with information gained from their devices. As such, 60% of millennials support replacing routine doctor office visits with a telemedicine or telehealth appointment.
Teladoc Health is a telemedicine provider. Teladoc Health is a publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The name Teladoc has become somewhat linked with telemedicine because Teladoc has been in the business for quite some time. Teladoc Health is one of many telemedicine and telehealth providers to consider when purchasing telemedicine.
Telemedicine and telehealth services will grow with consumer demand. In order for the industry to grow and implement innovative solutions, telemedicine providers must reach out to consumers to raise awareness about the benefits and the affordability of their services. Technologically speaking, video chats already exist and are becoming more popular as a means of conducting an appointment. Technology can also help telemedicine grow through the use of electronic medical records where physician share data related to a patient’s prognosis and treatment.
Telemedicine and telehealth are an affordable way to have access to doctors who are available online by using a telephone or video application.
Please Note: Telemedicine does not replace the primary care physician, and telemedicine providers reserve the right not to prescribe medications including DEA controlled substances.