The gaining popularity of virtual doctor visits.
Imagine a doctor’s visit where you don’t have to miss work, sit in a waiting room full of sick people, or even leave the comfort of your bed. If you haven’t heard of virtual doctor visits, you probably will in the next few years as more and more insurance companies and doctors are getting on board with what’s called telehealth: the use of telecommunication technology to deliver long-distance health-related services.
Part of the telehealth business includes virtual doctor visits, ordering prescriptions, and monitoring health conditions. While studies have shown the possible dangers of telehealth services, Nashville Fit Body Boot Camp analyzed that the convenience and cost-effectiveness of an E-MD may override the risks.
How It Works
Any time of day or night, seven days a week, log onto your computer, smartphone, or tablet and within minutes you’re able to see a doctor via webcam. Digital doctors allow you to communicate via e-mail, talk on the telephone, or fill out an online questionnaire to diagnose an illness. If done through a videoconference, the doctor will walk you through an exam while he or she watches. Recommendations are made, diagnosis is confirmed, and prescriptions are ordered if necessary. Virtual doctors visits usually last only 10 to 15 minutes. Compare this to an hour or more at an office, not counting the commute.
Who to Trust
How can you know whether a website offering e-visits is legit? One way is to search well-known hospital websites for links to e-visit appointments with doctors. Whatever telehealth provider you choose, make sure the site provides extensive information about each doctor, explains the services provided, gives details about the fees and charges associated with the visit (usually ranging from $25 to $49 with insurance), protects your privacy, and is able to share your records with your primary care physician.
When to Go Virtual
As you may guess, virtual doctor visits aren’t to be used for just any type of medical emergency. It’s estimated, however, that up to 70 percent of doctor’s visits could be handled online or over the phone. Common complaints such as allergies, colds, pink eye, earaches, diarrhea, vomiting, urinary tract infections, sore throats, coughs, rashes, yeast infections, or bronchitis are reasons to log onto your computer or smartphone app to schedule an e-visit. Nashville fitness center even found that, if your symptoms can’t be diagnosed over the web, the online doctor will advise you to visit your regular doctor.
Pros and Cons
When it comes to the benefits of virtual doctor visits, convenience is at the top of the list. You don’t have to miss work and the visit can be done on your own time. Second, you don’t have to wait in a crowded waiting room. It just takes a few minutes to register, enter your health history, and you’re ready to see the doctor. A third benefit of telehealth is its cost-efficiency. Doctors typically charge less for an e-visit than an in-office visit. Fourth, it’s a faster, simpler way to get a second opinion from specialists regarding X-ray or MRI results.
There are two sides to each coin. Many doctors are hesitant to offer telehealth services for the following reasons:
• The phone or Internet service cutting out in the middle of a videoconference or email chat can be a real hassle.
• Some doctors are resistant to change and new technology.
• Unless you’re face to face, able to touch patients, measure blood pressure, take temperatures, or perform diagnostic tests, accidents and misdiagnosis are more likely.
The best option? Seeing your doctor in-person. Doing this should be your norm, but on those days when you can’t miss work, your car’s in the shop, or it’s too far of a commute, you may want to try a virtual doctor’s appointment. Just check with your insurance company first to see if it’s covered.
Big Money. A personal trainer at Nashville bootcamp discovered that the pharmacy chain Walgreens is now offering telehealth services in many locations, projecting the market to rake in $1.5 trillion in five years.