If you hadn’t heard of telemedicine before the COVID-19 pandemic, you likely have by now. The spread of the coronavirus disease has sparked interest and opportunity in telemedicine for both healthcare providers and patients. In this blog post, we outline how telemedicine works, its benefits, and why it’s in such high demand as we continue to battle COVID-19.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine, also called telehealth, includes healthcare services delivered remotely by a physician or health professional. Telemedicine isn’t just limited to primary care. You can also schedule visits with specialists, therapists, nutritionists, and more.
A telemedicine visit can be done over a simple telephone call or video chat. Even the site of care can vary from home, office, or healthcare facility. Because most people are currently working from home under quarantine, they are already familiar with attending meetings using platforms like Zoom or Skype. Similarly, telemedicine services connect you with a healthcare provider over a secure, HIPAA-compliant platform. Your patient and health information remains confidential and safe, just as it would in an in-clinic visit.
Thanks to its convenience and broad access to a number of health services, telemedicine is quickly becoming the preferred method of delivering care.
Why are telemedicine visits so popular right now?
Because it is so important to stop the spread of a highly infectious virus like the novel coronavirus, telemedicine visits can reduce exposure to patients and healthcare workers. Slowing the rate of COVID-19 infection can help “flatten the curve.”
Using telemedicine rather than visiting a clinic in person can also prevent illness if you suspect you’re infected, but you’re not. Bacteria and viruses can survive on surfaces for a prolonged period of time. In fact, recent experiments found that the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 can remain viable in the air for at least three hours, on cardboard for 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours. Even with frequent disinfecting practices in clinics, exposure is still a real possibility.
That’s why telemedicine is so useful and popular right now. As we continue to practice social distancing, people with non-emergency health issues or chronic illness needs can receive care using telemedicine. Thanks to expanded telehealth benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, seniors don’t have to travel to a healthcare facility to see a physician. The cost of a telemedicine visit is usually very affordable, and in most cases, is even less than typical insurance copays.
What issues can telemedicine address?
Telemedicine visits can address common non-emergency health issues such as:
- cold and flu symptoms
- sore throat
- allergies and sinus infections
- nausea and vomiting
- urinary tract infections
- pink eye
- rashes and minor skin irritations
Patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms can also be screened online without exposing themselves or others by visiting a clinic.
What are some limitations of telemedicine?
Telemedicine should not be used for life-threatening conditions like heart attack, stroke, or trauma. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, call 911.
Patients may be concerned about the accuracy and the amount of information a provider can gather over the phone or through a video chat. However, telemedicine providers can make keen observations and glean a lot of information from your movements, feedback, and medical history. If you’ve never used telemedicine before, make sure you’re prepared for your first visit.
Because telemedicine takes place in your home, services such as testing and lab work are usually not available. However, in some cases, they can be done at independent outpatient labs.
The future of telemedicine
Telemedicine was already gaining steam over the last five to ten years. But in the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it has risen in popularity and will likely be the new normal for healthcare.
If you have more questions about telemedicine or you’d like to schedule a visit, contact The Kingsley Clinic today!