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Seven Ways Telemedicine Can Work for You

Even if you haven’t heard of it before, you will probably hear it a lot very soon. The concept is very simple; you access your physician or medical services provider through a telephone or video service.  The reason you are likely to hear so much about telemedicine is due to its rapidly growing popularity among physicians and patients. According to a survey by Software Advice, almost 75 percent of patients would like to try telemedicine.

If you could speak to your physician online or on a cell phone and get reliable advice almost immediately, wouldn’t you prefer that to driving to the doctor’s office and waiting an interminably long time with a host of other ill or injured people?  When you think about it, telemedicine has enormous appeal. If you aren’t convinced, here are some advantages of telemedicine that may change your mind:

  1. Convenience: For many people, the worst part of visiting the doctor is freeing up time in their busy schedule, driving through traffic, and finally waiting to see the doctor.  Telemedicine eliminates those hassles by allowing patients to speak with their doctor without a face-to-face meeting.  Both patient and physician can avoid wasted time and inconvenience, especially if the issue is only a minor one like a prescription refill.  For many patients who have difficulty traveling, telemedicine should be an enormously helpful alternative.
  2. Saves money: For the 75 million Americans who live in rural or underserved areas, it may take hours to reach the offices of a qualified medical professional. It often requires them to take all or part of the day off to visit a physician, which probably costs them lost wages as well as substantial travel costs.  If they can speak to a physician over the web, they can avoid those costs and still obtain effective medical advice. Communication with a physician can also help eliminate unnecessary visits to the ER, which is usually substantially more expensive than non-urgent care.
  3. Avoid contamination: Whether you are elderly, very young or have a weak immune system, avoiding a waiting room full of sick people may help you avoid the bug that seems to be going around.  Although most medical staff strive to keep offices sanitary, there is no doubt that there is a greater chance of contracting an infection from a large group of ill patients. The best way to avoid compromising your health is to completely bypass a physical visit to the doctor’s office.  A telemedicine session with a powerful enough video service may be effective enough to diagnose your issue and set you on the proper course of treatment.

    Seven Features of an Ideal Health Plan for Older Americans
    Wavebreak Media Ltd/
  4. Greater adoption among providers: With more Americans using the internet via broadband connections and more powerful smartphones, the technological issues that may have stalled telemedicine utilization are being dismantled.  In 2015, there were 1 million virtual doctor visits in the U.S., but this grew to 1.2 million in 2016.  More employers are also encouraging telemedicine use for its lower costs; only 48 percent of employers offered telemedicine health benefits in 2015, but this jumped to 74 percent in 2016. With almost 15 million Americans obtaining health care remotely in 2015, adoption of this technology is rapidly gaining steam.  In the next few years, physicians may opt for telemedicine appointments over office visits.
  5. Behavioral therapy: One of the most robust forms of telemedicine involves psychiatry.  Because this specialty relies primarily upon counseling and pharmacology, the telemedicine model is a natural fit. Patients can talk to a psychiatrist in the comfort of their home, when it is most convenient for them, and the physician can submit any necessary prescriptions electronically to a local pharmacy. With so few psychiatrists located in rural areas, telemedicine can now deliver behavioral therapies to even the most isolated communities.
  6. More access to your physician: Due to cost, inconvenience and scheduling conflicts, you probably see your physician less often than you should, but because telemedicine eliminates or minimizes these obstacles, you can discuss your health issues in a more timely manner.  Your physician can also maintain a better eye on you to see if you are following their orders, getting tested on schedule and taking your medications properly.  In the case of elderly patients, these virtual interactions may also help with social support including proper diet and environmental conditions. 
  7. Better health outcomes: Ultimately, telemedicine should only be used if it produces better outcomes for patients.  Fortunately, that appears to be the case. Telemedicine enables medical providers to stretch available resources so that patients with a greater need for care are prioritized.  Because patients can contact a physician as the need arises, physicians can direct them to the most appropriate care resource including a doctor’s office, pharmacy or emergency room. This type of targeted care prevents unnecessary hospital visits which can be costly and time consuming.  Furthermore, because your personal physician who is aware of your medical history is caring for you, you are more likely to be given a more personalized and effective treatment.

In the coming years, as communications technology matures, more and more of the medical community will utilize telemedicine to interact with patients.  More products like smartphone apps, medical monitoring tech and health wearables are entering the consumer market and are offering ways for providers to monitor the health of patients.  Expect this to spur more electronic communications that encourage preventive care as well as timely medical intervention.

Telemedicine holds enormous promise for people across the United States, but it may take some time to fully reap the rewards.  More physicians will need to obtain the appropriate equipment and training to produce a truly effective telemedicine operation.  Many organizations like Medicare and private insurers are beginning to recognize the benefits of telemedicine, and are introducing telemedicine benefits, but those remain limited.  If you would like to learn more about how insurance can cover telemedicine services, schedule a consultation with your insurance agent.  You may be surprised to learn that you can use telemedicine to improve your life.


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