Health

What is Telemedicine? 7 Questions, Answered

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Telemedicine makes healthcare more accessible for everyone around the world. With improved technology, patients can communicate with doctors wherever they are remotely, through means such as video, online chat, and email and view their medical records online. Telemedicine makes it easier for individuals to get the care they need no matter where they live, allowing them to get treatment for medical issues easily without having to get into a car, bus, or train to get quality care. 

While telemedicine can do a lot, there are a few things it can’t do. For example, you can’t get tests through telemedicine because you’ll need your blood drawn in person. However, telemedicine makes it easy for you to get diagnoses and treatments to help you get better faster and treat life-long illnesses. Telemedicine has become increasingly more popular over the years, so you might be wondering if it’s right for you. Of course, if you’ve never seen your doctor through a computer screen before, you might have some questions before you schedule an online appointment. Here are your questions about telemedicine answered. 

  1. How does telemedicine work? 

Telemedicine allows you to connect with your doctor without the need to visit them in person. However, it’s not used for emergency situations like a stroke, lacerations, or broken bones that require more complex, hands-on medical care. That being said, most doctor’s visits aren’t for hands-on care. Many doctors spend most of their days treating the common cold or addressing patient health concerns for non-emergency situations and follow-up visits. For example, if someone had surgery, they might schedule a follow-up via telemedicine unless they’re experiencing complications. 

You can also have virtual meetings with your doctor if you have an infection you’re able to show them on camera or are feeling mildly ill from the cold or flu and want to discuss your symptoms to potentially get treatment.

Telemedicine is also a great option for when you’re not feeling well enough to visit the doctor or you’re out of town on vacation because it allows you to communicate with your primary care physician, who you trust no matter where you are. It allows doctors to have the option for monitor their patients remotely. Through telemedicine, you can get access to prescriptions, and quality care no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

Scheduling a telemedicine appointment is easy, but not all doctors use it yet. Eventually, we expect all physicians to start using technology to communicate with their clients, but right now, many doctors are still figuring it out. If your doctor allows you to schedule telemedicine appointments, you can typically do so online by choosing a time from a menu. 

Before scheduling your appointment, check your insurance benefits to determine if telemedicine is covered. Many insurance providers cover these appointments, but others may not, depending on the reason for your visit. 

  1. What are the benefits of telemedicine? 

The most significant advantage of telemedicine is convenience. When you have a cold, you may not feel like going to the doctor. Additionally, you don’t want to go anywhere where you could pass your germs on to someone else. In most cases, doctors don’t need to see you for symptoms of the common cold or flu. Instead, they can ask you about your symptoms online to help determine the right course of treatment. 

Telemedicine may also be cheaper than seeing a doctor in person, especially if it’s covered by your insurance. Since online appointments require less of the doctor’s time, they typically charge less for them. 

  1. Can you get specialty care?

Specialty care sometimes requires individuals to go out of town or even the state. Telemedicine allows you to get specialty care, depending on the type of care you need. For example, you can get psychiatric care from anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the internet. You can also find doctors who specialize in different illnesses and diseases. For example, if you have an essential tremor, telemedicine provides access to doctors who specialize in its treatment to help you feel better. 

  1. What are the disadvantages?

Telemedicine is not a solution for everyone because you need quality internet. Having slow internet can affect your ability to video chat with your doctor because it requires bandwidth. Additionally, telemedicine doesn’t work for situations that require hands-on care, like emergency situations such as blood loss, stroke, seizure, and heart attack. 

  1. What is the level of care?

It’s a huge misconception that just because you’re talking to your doctor online, you won’t get the same personal level of care you’d get in person. Telemedicine may even improve the level of care you get because it provides you with access to your medical records. For example, if you have lab tests done, instead of waiting for a phone call, you’ll get an email notification that your results are in, allowing you to read them for yourself. 

  1. Can pets use telemedicine?

Believe it or not, vets have started offering telemedicine for pets to help your pet get the care they need for non-emergency services like allergies and follow-ups. You can even find vet behaviorists to help you train your dog and treat anxiety online without ever having to go to a vet’s office, giving your pet access to the different types of care they need to live long, happy lives. 

  1. Is it covered by insurance?

Some telemedicine appointments may be covered by your health insurance, but it depends on your provider and plan. Before scheduling an appointment, call your health insurance company to see if they’ll provide reimbursement or pay for part of your telemedicine appointment. As telemedicine becomes more popular, many insurance providers will start covering more services to ensure you can get the care you need when you need it most. Until then, payment for these services is inconsistent, so the only way to find out is to review your benefits or talk to someone at the insurance office. 

Is Telemedicine Right for You?

Telemedicine isn’t for everyone. Some patients may prefer to visit their doctors in person because they’re used to it, while others prefer to see a doctor online to save money on gas or get the care they might not be able to get in person. 

Julia Olivas

Julia Olivas graduated from San Francisco State University with her B.A. in Communication Studies. She is a freelance writer where she loves sharing her passion for digital marketing and content creation. Outside of writing, she loves cooking, reading, painting, and her pup Ruby.

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