The pandemic of 2020 has seen enormous changes to everything from work and business to health and fitness. With hospitals overrun with coronavirus cases and people stuck at home, the need for remote medical treatments and doctor’s advice is higher than ever.
If you haven’t heard of telemedicine or remote medicine, this quick guide will help you get familiarized with the concept and give you the option of remotely consulting a doctor next time you are sick or need professional healthcare advice.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine, simply put, is the ability to remotely consult with a medical doctor or specialist. It refers specifically to remote clinical services. Telemedicine or remote medicine is also called telehealth, digital medicine, e-health or mobile-health.
Remote medical services like telemedicine are convenient and cost-effective. Many benefits include:
- Remote Medical Advice. Ability to remotely get medical advice or to find out next steps in treating a condition. Doctors can give treatments by phone, email or mobile video.
- Convenient for those living in rural areas, those away from home or those who need more immediate advice.
- Limited Exposure to Germs. Prevent spreading or catching illnesses while visiting a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office.
- Save money on more costly in-person visits to the doctor
- Save time – No commuting to office or time wasted in the waiting room.
Telemedicine isn’t for everything, of course. You can’t have surgery online or give blood samples. But when you want to know whether your dry cough just needs rest or requires further testing and treatment, telemedicine can help you quickly decide.
Telemedicine is also great for follow-up health checks or surveys after treatment, for example. The shift towards remote medical care is a great first line of treatment that can help reduce waits, crowding at hospitals and so much more.
How Has Telemedicine Changed After Coronavirus?
Before the Coronavirus became a pandemic, not much emphasis was placed on telemedicine. Government regulations limited its access. Doctors also preferred in-office visits, as they generate more income. You can’t order several costly blood tests over the Internet, afterall.
Covid-19, of course, changed all of that. Hospitals in highly-infected areas became overrun. Hospital beds, equipment and personnel all became scarce as not only infected people flooded clinics, but also people with other medical needs.
With lockdowns in effect and many people forced to stay at home, lawmakers and regulators have changed many regulations around the use of remote medicine. This has enabled the increased ability of doctors to treat more patients remotely.
One of the big regulation changes that help with access to telemedicine is allowing Medicare to cover doctor’s services in a patient’s home or by telephone. Several states, including California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana and Washington, now require health insurance companies to cover telemedicine services at the same rate as in-person visits.
How Can You Use Telemedicine?
The first step to using remote healthcare options is knowing if telehealth options are available to you.
- Does your health insurance cover remote health? You need to make sure that any telemedical options you may use will be covered by your health insurance coverage. Find the number on your health insurance card and call to ask. You’ll want to be prepared knowing the availability of telehealth options and your co-pay and deductible costs.
- Does your doctor offer telemedical services? Be sure to ask your regular physician if he or she offers telemedicine and what method they use. Telemedicine can take many forms, via computer, video chat, telephone, etc. Make sure which ones your doctor will use before you need their services.
- Make sure your remote health options are available to you and you can use them. If your doctor uses Zoom or Skype for telehealth video, make sure you have access to these and know how to use them. You don’t want to have technical issues when you have urgent medical needs.
Telemedicine and remote health care should be strongly considered as an alternative option to in-person doctor’s visits. They can be affordable while also reducing your chances of getting an infection. Check your options first, though.
For more reading and information about Telemedicine and remote medicine, check out these resources:
Telemedicine in Texas (texmed.org)
COVID-19 Spurs Big Changes in Telemedicine Regulation (lexisnexis.com)
Check your remote connection: 3 simple steps for a secured network (WiFi) (learningcomputer.com)