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Telemedicine has been making waves in the healthcare industry for a few years, and it’s becoming more prevalent. Global events have steadily brought telemedicine to the front of our awareness as a convenient and low-risk way for professionals to treat patients, without needing a visit to the office.
Traditionally, telemedicine described the delivery of healthcare services by a physician, physician’s assistant (PA), nurse, or another healthcare provider via telephone. Today, modern technology has given us access to video chat platforms like Skype, Zoom or Facetime. Video chats allow medical professionals the ability to assess a patient visually, with zero human contact.
After a discussion of the patient’s symptoms, the provider can diagnose and treat patients, offer them advice, and send a prescription to the patient’s preferred pharmacy.
Any parent who has awakened in the middle of the night to a child screaming from a painful ear infection can likely identify and diagnose the issue. But they cannot acquire the needed prescription antibiotic without a visit to a physician’s office.
Some issues are a perfect match for telemedicine, like:
However, more severe conditions and acute injuries will likely still require a visit to a doctor’s office, urgent care or emergency room. Telemedicine is not appropriate for:
Individuals interested in using telemedicine services should be aware of the differences between a potentially dangerous condition and a minor one. Therefore, telemedicine may not always be appropriate for folks who suffer from dementia or advanced Alzheimer’s disease. In situations like this, a thoughtful caregiver or family member should still be involved.
Telemedicine services are transforming the ways patients access healthcare. By receiving non-emergency medical care over the phone or via a video chat, individuals conserve the resources that would otherwise be spent setting up appointments, commuting, or spending time in the lobby with a physician.
From a health insurance perspective, telemedicine lowers the risk of a communicable disease spreading within a community. It ultimately reduces medical claims paid.
Historically, patients in rural, countryside settings were known to benefit most from telemedicine.
During a medical crisis (real or perceived) every minute matters! So the ability to reach a physician or staff immediately with a question of severity was always most beneficial for those living remotely.
However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, the insurance industry, hospital boards, medical professionals and the patients they serve have all come to recognize the value of telemedicine as a way to provide non-emergency care.
Individuals living in urban settings are becoming more appreciative of the ability to seek medical assistance without having to battle commuter traffic, use public transportation and wait in a potentially infectious lobby.
For retirees, it’s essential to know that Medicare is now covering most telemedicine appointments.
Telemedicine costs will vary by provider, by location, and possibly by network. According to Kaiser Health News, the average telemedicine appointment would cost about $79 out of pocket, compared to $146 for a regular doctor’s office visit.
For some patients, individual healthcare costs are sure to be mitigated by telemedicine; fuel expenses, public transportation costs, missed hours at work and for some families, paid child care. A physical appointment with a doctor can incur many circumstantial costs. In these situations, a “virtual” appointment with a telemedicine practitioner would present considerable savings.
Historically, telemedicine visits often led to a physical visit at a hospital or doctor’s office. About 12% of telemedicine visits were considered complete without a physical appointment. 88% of all telemedicine patients required a physical visit to a provider’s office or a follow-up appointment.
Still, that was before COVID-19. As of 2020, medical professionals and service providers across all fields of medicine have focused on providing remote services whenever possible. While it’s far too early in the game to speculate percentages, it wouldn’t be surprising if telemedicine completion statistics boast at least a 50% completion rate or better, from 2020 on.
About 80% of US residents own at least one “Smartphone” or another handheld device. Patients can reach medical professionals around the clock, from the privacy of their home, or even while taking a break at work.
Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic brought telemedicine to the forefront of many patients’ minds, spurring its drastic growth in popularity.
Millennials, in particular, are fond of telemedicine. It makes sense because this generation is mainly comfortable with video-chatting services. While “Baby Boomers” are more likely to require an ongoing relationship and a certain “bedside manner” from practitioners, Millennials are more comfortable communicating via devices, even when it comes to sensitive, personal information.
Ultimately, the choice to involve oneself with telemedicine is a personal one. It’s not meant to replace traditional health insurance or traditional doctors’ offices entirely. Yet many patients find it to be a more affordable method to get non-emergency medical care.
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