Doctor appointments can be hard to make when you have a busy schedule, aren’t feeling well or have trouble getting out of the house. Luckily, thanks to advancements in technology and an innovative mindset by some in the healthcare sector, online doctor consultations (also known as telemedicine) can help you attend your appointment from the comfort of your own home.
How Does Telemedicine Work?
Telemedicine (online doctor consultations) are designed to give patients immediate access to doctors so receiving medical attention is more convenient and accessible. Below is a list of steps within this process:
- Request a visit with an online doctor
- The telehealth service will match you with a respective doctor, taking into consideration: age, gender, reason for consultation and specialty department
- The doctor will review your information
- You will receive a call via phone or video chat
- Discuss your problem with the doctor
- Doctor will make a diagnosis
- Doctor will recommend treatment plan
Telehealth was originally developed for patients living in underserved or rural areas, but it has become widely popular because of its convenience. It also has the added benefit of lowering healthcare costs like our dental savings plans.
There are many different telehealth services available, each functioning slightly different than another. Essentially, you use your phone or computer to meet with a doctor anywhere you are to receive a diagnosis for a medical problem.
Patients can talk to doctors online about a myriad of illnesses and conditions, including:
- Sinus infections
- Urinary tract infections
- And more…
Talking to a doctor online about these ailments has the added benefit of getting your medical problems taken care of quickly before the problem worsens. Instead of having to wait weeks to find time off work or time to get into a doctor, patients can give a doctor a call and find a solution to their problem immediately.
Of course, not everything can be resolved by a phone call or video chat. There may be times when the online doctor believes an in-person visit is necessary. They will let you know if that is the case.
Will My Health Insurance Cover Online Doctor Appointments?
So far, several major health providers offer telehealth services (which includes online doctor consultations) as an available benefit to its members. Some of these providers include:
These providers are using telehealth services, such as:
- Doctor on Demand
- Now Clinic
- American Well
Where Can I Find an Online Doctor?
Companies that offer online doctor consultation services include:
- DialCare (temporarily offered with a 1Dental Savings Plan)
- American Well
- Doctor on Demand
You can also use AskMD or HealthTap–popular smartphone health apps–to get quick answers from doctors on different health conditions.
What Are the Benefits to Online Doctor Consultations?
Telemedicine services offer many benefits to both the patient and the doctor. These include:
For the Patient
- A way to get high quality care from a practicing and licensed physician while avoiding more expensive trips to a hospital ER.
- A way to get a quick answer to questions concerning an existing treatment plan or diagnosis.
- A way to avoid sitting in a waiting room full of germs and sick people when needing attention for a minor medical issue.
- Less time away from work or kids
- A quick way to get medical attention for a sick child.
For the Doctor
- A way to work remotely by consulting with patients on video chat services.
- The ability to give a better diagnosis for issues that are home-related (mold, rashes) because the patient can actually show the doctor what may be causing the problem.
- More health insurers offer telemedicine as an option as a way to cut costs.
What Does the Future Hold for Online Consultations (Telemedicine)?
According to IHS–a global information company shaping today’s business landscape–the number of virtual video consultations between primary health care providers and their patients is expected to double in five years. This will contribute to a drastic increase in telehealth–nearly 27 million video consultations in the U.S. to be more exact.
More work is needed to meld virtual consultations into the healthcare system, however.
Larger providers are already providing complimentary virtual consults for their patients, which is something we need to see more of for this new health service to fully work.
Telemedicine has major implications for healthcare. Time will tell if this method of health services will stick. Not all states are on board with this new service, however. As this service progresses, changes may be made to better improve its appeal to doctors in the health industry.
Another aspect of telemedicine in its early stages is teledentistry: a way to consult with your dentist over the phone. Obviously, this isn’t something that can be all-encompassing, as you still need your dentist to clean and examine your teeth, but teledentistry could be used for consulting your dentist about follow-up questions from a procedure or common toothaches that you want examined.
Some areas that could be handled during a virtual visit include:
- Postoperative evaluations
- Follow-ups for patients experiencing excessive discomfort after a procedure
- Consultations performed after a diagnostic-records-only appointment
- Treatment plan presentations
- Evaluation of facial swelling
What do you think about online doctor consultations? Have you had any experiences with this that you would like to share with our readers? Leave your comments below.