If you’ve been wondering lately “what is telemedicine?” you’re not alone. More and more patients have been discovering the safety and convenience of virtual health visits as COVID-19 changes the way we live and care for ourselves. According to FAIR Health, a non-profit that collects and analyzes health insurance claims data, telehealth claims skyrocketed by more than 4,000 percent in March 2020 compared to March 2019.
Using telemedicine, patients are able to communicate with healthcare providers quickly and confidentially, without crowded waiting rooms, long commutes, delays in appointments and other challenges. “Telemedicine allows access to your doctor at the click of a button,” says Nirmala Kishun, M.D., who is an internal medicine doctor with Jetdoc and chief of the population health department MCR Health in Bradenton, Florida.
We asked Dr. Kishun a few questions about how telemedicine works and who it’s for. Here’s what she said.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine is a way of connecting to healthcare providers from anywhere using technology, such as video conferencing. During a virtual visit, a licensed healthcare professional, such as a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant, can order lab tests, such as COVID-19 tests or bloodwork; diagnose health conditions; prescribe medication; follow up on previous appointments and more. “Telehealth is just a medium,” says Dr. Kishun. “It’s an easy way to connect with me wherever you are.”
How does telemedicine work?
If you’ve talked with friends and family using a video conferencing service, then you already have an idea of how telemedicine works. The difference, of course, is that you’re speaking virtually with a licensed medical professional and making important decisions about your health, all via a secure video platform. With Jetdoc, for example, a patient can log on, enter their health history and other background information and be matched with a professional within minutes right through the app. Once the session starts, they’ll talk about the issue at hand. “It’s very conversational,” says Dr. Kishun.
What are the benefits of telemedicine?
Telemedicine offers convenience and allows for social distance during the pandemic. “You’re in your own home and you’re able to access health services. There’s comfort and safety in that,” says Dr. Kishun. In addition, telemedicine streamlines communication, allowing patients to communicate directly with the medical professional rather than leaving messages with office staff for follow-up questions.
What types of health concerns are a good fit for telemedicine?
Telemedicine can be helpful to patients with a variety of health concerns, from viruses to chronic conditions. If a patient is worried they might have COVID-19, for example, they can meet with a medical professional virtually to talk about their symptoms and receive a written order to be tested.
Here are some conditions for which to consider a telemedicine appointment:
- COVID-19 questions or concerns
- Sore throat
- Ear ache
- Pink eye or other eye concerns
- Urinary tract infections
- Blood pressure management
- Diabetes management
- Skin irritations such as rashes, eczema acne and other issues
- And more
For medical emergencies, such as broken bones, chest pain, choking, stroke and other concerns, the patient should call 911 immediately.
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