Seeing a doctor probably doesn’t rank very high on most folks’ list of fun things to do. But, it’s a necessary part of maintaining your health and wellness over time. Luckily, there’s a solution to the more inconvenient aspects of the process: using a telemedicine provider. In telemedicine, you can speak with a professional, qualified, and licensed doctor about a number of medical concerns. Your health insurance likely covers telemedicine in some form or offers it as part of the overall membership package. Even if it doesn’t, telemedicine is an affordable and easy way to get treatment for chronic, urgent, and other issues quickly. It is not a replacement for a primary care physician or a means to attain emergency services (although proactive use of such services might actually decrease the likelihood of such visits). Here are five benefits of using a telemedicine provider for non-emergency medical issues.
Consulting a virtual doctor doesn’t have to be just for urgent care situations. Speaking with doctors about other conditions is a useful aspect of the service as well. A medical consultation is a great place to address your general health questions and any immediate medical concerns you might have. During a consultation, it’s important to ask about the severity and treatment of your condition. With a virtual visit, make sure you’re in a quiet place and ensure your internet connection is both secure and high-quality. If you’re doing a video call with the doctor, it’s a good idea to test your headphones/speaker and microphone prior to the appointment. If you’re on a phone call, a quiet space is almost necessary. Take notes, be very descriptive, and ask questions. Imagine that you’re speaking with your primary care physician in person and be sure to be completely honest with the doctor.
Perhaps the most common and primary use for telemedicine providers is an urgent care situation. This could be any non-emergency medical issue that needs fast treatment or a prescription to treat the problem. Going to a physical urgent care facility takes time and often costs upward of $50 for a single visit. With a virtual doctor visit, you’re typically covered by your insurance, pay less, spend less time waiting (the average length of a telemedicine visit is around 12 minutes), and don’t have to leave your home. Better yet, online doctors can treat a wide variety of urgent issues remotely, including providing prescriptions for treatments. Here are just a few that can be addressed by a virtual doctor:
- Common cold
- Ear issues
- Sore Throat
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Insect Bites
- Pink Eye
- Respiratory infections
The doctor will talk you through the symptoms, determine your diagnosis, and help you develop a treatment plan. Often, they’ll provide a written summary of their findings as well for you to keep and reference for your records.
While teletherapy is not suitable for treating severe conditions like schizophrenia, it can be useful for a variety of mental health concerns such as panic, depression, OCD, and anxiety. Teletherapy appointments center around an in-depth discussion with a licensed therapist to help patients work through their issues and concerns. During the appointment, the therapist will ask many targeted, detailed questions to figure out the best way to treat the patient. On your end, it’s best to be as open and honest as possible and remember telemedicine is both private and professional, so you don’t need to be concerned about anyone but you and your doctor knowing about your concerns or treatment.
Most of us have probably had to take medication regularly (or maybe you do now). Getting a refill on a prescription used to require physically seeing the doctor and having them prescribe it for you. With telemedicine, it’s merely a matter of getting in touch with the doctor and doing a consultation for the prescription refill. They’ll chat with you about the need for the medicine, go over your treatment plan, and will send your refill to the local pharmacy for you to pick up at your leisure. If you’re starting a new medication, they’ll provide information about it, what it does, its side effects and specific usage instructions for when you pick it up from the pharmacy. There are some medications that a virtual doctor cannot prescribe (including controlled substances) and there may be other limitations as well depending on the provider.
Has this ever happened to you: you go to a primary care physician, fast all morning, and get your bloodwork drawn. A few days later, the lab bills you for the bloodwork but you never hear back from the doctor about the result. Worse, you had to travel to some lab across town to get the work done a second time. Luckily, telemedicine can streamline this process too! Some providers offer doctors the ability to request labwork through a local lab. Then you physically travel to the lab, get the bloodwork done, and the doctor follows up with you via another telemedicine visit. It’s as simple as that! Of course, not all services will provide this, but if you need any labs done, it’s certainly worth asking about it during your consultation.