Why wait at a doctors office? Talk with doctors online
Going to the doctor can be frustrating: It costs money and time, and often very little of that time is spent with the doctor you’re there to see. Many people in the tech industry want to change that with telehealth services. Telehealth will allow you to talk with doctors online and complete an entire doctor’s visit from anywhere you are located.
Modern spin on an established practice
The concept has been around since the 1990s, but now the movement is gaining steam. About 52 percent of hospitals used telehealth technology as of 2013, and 74 percent of consumers say they would use telehealth if offered, according to the American Hospital Association.
The rise in telehealth is partly due to its potential to increase access to care for patients in rural areas and for the disabled or elderly, but it also modernizes health care.
“People do everything online or on their cellphones— banking, learning, buying. This is the way health care has to go, too,” says Dr. Kevin Biese, vice chair of emergency medicine at the University of North Carolina’s m e d i c a l school. Biese online doctor service to follow up with and advise patients he sees in the emergency room.
While some telehealth services are best for certain populations, almost anyone can find benefit. The next time you think you need to squeeze in a doctor’s appointment, you may be able to save yourself the hassle with an online visit. The trick is knowing when and how to use telehealth to get the care you need quickly and at a low cost.
How do you talk with doctors online?
Telehealth refers to any health service delivered over technology such as a follow-up visit by phone or video conference. Telemedicine, another term you may have heard, is the type of telehealth that involves medical testing using devices or apps that can measure vital signs and transmit them to your doctor in real time.
Telemedicine is more useful for monitoring disease, complicated pregnancies and postoperative care. For example, you may have had multiple doctor v i s i t s or spent days in the hospital just for safety monitoring after a surgery in the past. Now, portable medical equipment and mobile apps can deliver your doctors the same information from the comfort of your home.
Easy for moms and the elderly
Telehealth visits are usually simpler. Especially for elderly or vulnerable population groups, Biese says, it’s better to talk with doctors online for follow-up visits and minor questions. That way, it’s easy for those patients to avoid leaving home in poor health.
Doctors can also do initial consultations over video chat. For example, if a child injures his ankle, his parent can use their mobile device with video call to show the s w e l l i n g, and the doctor can then advise whether an emergency room visit or x-ray is even necessary.
“Quite often, they would’ve gone to the ER for just a sprain, and urgent care would provide the same benefit at a much lower cost,” Biese says.
Specialists often use telehealth to keep up with their regular patients. People with mental illnesses can have a brief chat with their therapists while on vacation or away at college— or those who use daily medications can discuss side effects, switching, or refilling their prescriptions over video chat with their physicians.
If you have a chronic condition, consider searching for mobile apps for disease management; some provide access to doctors and other disease experts. If your condition requires f r e q u e n t doctor office visits, t a l k with doctors online to reduce unnecessary trips and save yourself time and money.
Is it backed by insurance and state health programs?
Insurance and state governments are s e e i n g the value in telehealth solutions. Currently 31 states have adopted a bill to require insurance companies to r e i m b u r s e patients for telemedicine, especially for online doctor visits. Insurance companies recognize online doctor visits as a way to increase health coverage efficiency to drive the cost of health care down.
Medicaid programs in every state offer some sort of coverage for telemedicine, however some details maydiffer. Such as Medicare which requests that patients make themselves available at a medical facility while seeing a doctor, while other programs will allow d o c t o r visits from work or home. The Center for Concerned Health Policy has a map of the 50 states and District of Columbia that can assist you with understanding how the Medicaid program handles telehealth in your state.
Insured and Un-insured can talk with doctors online
If you’re uninsured or don’t have a telehealth benefit, you can still use services like Chat Live MD. While telehealth services enables you to s p e a k with your own doctor, others let you interact with a doctor you don’t know for simple questions — great for the uninsured and those without a primary physician. Most are available as apps, and usually cost under $100 per visit.
If you are insured your health insurance may include a telehealth benefit; most major insurers do. Commonly, telehealth visits for minor ailments and questions are covered except for a copay or low flat rate, usually under $50. Your health plan’s website will have the full details, so check to see what’s available.
“Doctors are catching on that patients w a n t more mobile access to care, so those who aren’t j u m p i n g on board now will start,” Biese says.
Simply asking about it may be enough to give your doctor that nudge to use it.