Exploring Telemedicine

You wake up feeling unwell, needing to schedule a doctor’s appointment. Instead of having to wait days for an appointment, you could have a doctor’s visit in a matter of minutes, right from the comfort of your own home. This is the power of telemedicine, a revolutionary topic in healthcare.

With state and federal regulations in mind, telemedicine is legitimate. Providers must be licensed in the same state where the patient is located, to provide quality care. Virtual care through a screen sets limits on what a provider can and cannot do, so prescribing or diagnosing a patient is often limited to certain circumstances. Recently, I had to schedule an appointment immediately for a cold. The doctor explained that the call would be recorded for quality purposes. Telemedicine programs are still required to protect patient’s health information under HIPAA. Although the availability of telemedicine is dependable on the healthcare provider, and insurance plan, patients under the Medicaid program are eligible to receive care through telemedicine. However, most people today are unaware that telemedicine exists.

Currently, telemedicine is a fast way to consult with the doctor; however, fast does not mean the best option. The boundaries only allow for a patient to speak to their doctor about symptoms, show an injury, or simply have a conversation. The doctor cannot reach through the phone and check the patient’s heart rate. Telemedicine is constantly changing, and can be more effective as technology develops. There are many areas in the world that do not have access to doctors, and often people have to drive hours to reach one. Improving internet access and investing in infrastructure can allow for more areas to have access to telemedicine services. Imagine you have to miss your appointment, and cancellation requires you to pay a fee. Instead of paying the fee, you can have the appointment virtually.

With this in mind, it would require reestablishment of rescheduling appointments, allowing patients within minutes of missing the appointment, or last minute cancellation, to have an opportunity to call the doctor in that window of the appointment, before complete cancellation. Additionally, utilizing clinical guidelines and criteria for telemedicine services helps ensure that providers deliver high-quality care despite boundaries and standards through the virtual appointment. Monitoring calls are a great way to educate current pre-med and medical students, allowing them more opportunities to “shadow” a medical professional on a call.

Now, medical bills are going to be expensive, however, healthcare costs are typically reduced compared to in person visits. Telemedicine can cut costs when eliminating the need for in-person visits, because there are no costs associated with maintaining physical facilities, and money is saved from transportation, parking, and missed appointments for both the doctor and patients.

Telemedicine can help prevent costly complications and hospitalizations in the long run. For example, Patient A feels the first signs of a cold, and schedules an in person appointment. The office is booked, and they end up having the appointment 8 days later. The cold worsened, resulted in a sinus infection, and they had to pay for antibiotics. In comparison, patient B also feels a cold developing, and are developing a sinus infection, but the appointment occurred 30 minutes after calling. The doctor caught the signs and planned for a prevention protocol before diagnosis. Patient B did not end up needing antibiotics and discovered the infection before it became serious.
As a result, Telemedicine enables easier access to preventive care and early intervention.

Telemedicine has evolved since the beginning, and is still in it’s early stages. Although it is not widely accessible, and the most useful platform for diagnosing, telemedicine offers preventative care, and is still a last minute tool that can come in handy.

The initiatives can resolve challenges which people face in accessibility, and improve the quality of care for the future. As it is constantly changing, it is encouraged that you consult with your physician on how to access telemedicine, and laws of telemedicine in your area.

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