Telemedicine, for those not familiar with the term, was conceived four decades ago and is literally “healing at a distance,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO’s telemedicine interpretation is:
The delivery of health care services, where distance is a critical factor, by all health care professionals using information and communication technologies… all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities. http://ow.ly/JhApI
In today’s world it can mean the return of the house call. Virtually. TruClinic offers web-based technology that enables doctors and their patients to connect face-to-face via any internet-accessible device, any time. Laptops, notebooks, and smart phones now allow patients to see their providers directly, either through regularly scheduled appointments, or with one click access in crisis situations.
If you have a compromised immune system, using telemedicine to speak with your doctor means you no longer have to venture out to the doctor’s office, and risk contact with other ill patients. If you can’t afford to miss work, you can use your phone to visit your provider on your break. Beyond regular patient care, telemedicine is optimal for mental health services and chronic condition management. Social workers, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists can schedule regular, virtual sessions with patients who don’t want to or can’t leave the comfort and security of their own homes.
Practitioners in clinics near you, caregivers in your neighbor’s home, and patients on isolated tribal reservations are already using telemedicine. Doctors and health care practitioners find the ease of connecting with their patients via the web frees up time and resources, and is very convenient for patients who may be unable to come to the office. Think of a virtual house call as connecting with a doctor face-to-face via your laptop or mobile phone. Appointments can be scheduled ahead of time for visits that don’t require a physical exam, or on demand contact can be set up to keep you out of the emergency room. Imagine being on vacation and your child develops an unusual rash; now you can log in and directly reach your provider.
Hospitals and insurance companies recognize the need and the cost savings of virtual office visits, and legislation validating telemedicine payments is on the books in some states. Patients receive the best care possible by consulting with specialists and their primary care providers when transportation, distance, or mobility issues restrict their access to regular office visits.
Telemedicine is becoming a necessity for chronic disease management when patients are asked to regularly report blood pressure test measurements, symptom follow up, and post-operative care routines, for examples.
Some insurance groups provide a telemedicine option as part of employers’ coverage plans. Many use the doc-in-the-box format, meaning you can connect with a contracted physician or nurse via teleconference or telephone. However, that model is quickly becoming outdated. These options are fine for diseases like colds and influenza with symptoms that can be discussed, diagnosed, and prescribed for without a physical exam, but the downside is that these call-in providers don’t know you or your medical history. They aren’t your doctors and they can’t prescribe regulated medications.
Ask your provider if virtual appointments are available. Check with your insurance company for telemedicine providers in your network. Your doctor can make it a priority to ask the hospital or clinic administrators to explore telemedicine options. Patient care is all about you – the patient. Why doesn’t your provider offer telemedicine?