When it comes to healthcare, you probably have two big concerns that are rolled into one: how to get the care you need at a price you can afford. One solution that’s gaining favor among consumers like you and healthcare professionals is telemedicine. “Telemedicine” is defined as “… the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status.”
For consumers, telemedicine takes many forms—from health tracking devices to online wellness apps to video conferencing with a physician. It’s this last form of telemedicine, patient-to-physician video conferencing, that we’ll talk about here.
Currently there are many providers of video doctor visits. The major ones include American Well, Doctors on Demand, Teladoc, and MDLive. There are bound to be many more and video doctor visits are predicted to see explosive growth. Employers are fueling some of that growth; Towers Watson in a 2014 survey of 1,000 companies found that 71 percent of employers intended to offer telemedicine to their employees in the near future.
Pharmacies and insurers are also pushing telemedicine. Both CVS and Walgreen’s have signed on with patient-doctor video providers, and major health plans are beginning to extend coverage for on-screen doctor visits. The reasons behind this push are the same reasons that make video doctor visits a money-saving, health supporting option for you. Here are five reasons why
- Like most people, you are probably pressed for time. It isn’t always possible to take time from work or other responsibilities for an in-office appointment. A video visit with a licensed physician for a non-emergency health concern saves time, and today time is money.
- Video doctor visits are less expensive than in-office visits. Skyping with a physician is nearly always less expensive than an in-office visit. This keeps the lid on out-of-pocket healthcare costs that worry so many families and individuals.
- With televisits, you are less likely to delay needed healthcare. We sometimes put off going to the doctor with what we think is a minor health problem. Unfortunately, this sometimes can cause a minor problem to become a major health issue. Early intervention is a good health strategy, and a cost-saving one in the long run.
- Away from home doesn’t have to mean away from medical care. Getting sick when you’re on vacation or a business trip is unpleasant enough. Worrying about where to get medical care just makes it worse. When you have access to a doctor via teleconference, you can get medical advice anytime, any place.
- Timely referral to a greater level of care if needed. Your “teledoc” will ask careful questions to assess your care. In some systems, the doctor will even be able to access your electronic medical record (EMR). This means that if the health concern you or a family member are presenting is one that requires a greater level of care or follow-up, you will know that immediately and be able to take appropriate action.
Bottom line: It’s to your advantage to explore technologies, including video doctor visits, that can improve your health and save you money.