Doctors have connected medicine with technology for many years. With a few clicks, your patients can search for their conditions and symptoms online. You can have nearly anything - prescriptions, supplements or even bacon-shaped Band-Aids delivered to your patient’s door. But for them to see you, they still had to go into a medical Practice or hospital and sit in a waiting room. Telemedicine is a general term that covers all of the ways you can use technology to communicate without being in the same room as your patient. It includes phone calls, video calls, emails and text messages. Some other terms used for telemedicine are telehealth, digital medicine, e-health or m-health (m for ‘mobile’).
If you, as a medical professional, offer the option to your patients, all you need in order to get set up for the provision of telemedicine is reliable internet, a smartphone with the ability to run multiple apps at the same time or a desktop computer/laptop.
Telemedicine is a very convenient tool for anyone who may not have direct access to a medical facility. Those who live in a rural area or far from your office, those who have limited movement, time or transportation, or those who need medical care while they’re away from home are those who benefit the most from Telemedicine options.
Depending on what you offer, your patients can receive medical services in different ways. Two of the most common are:
Virtual care can make it easier for you to find out whether your patient needs to come into your office. If it’s a common cold, they can stay home. If they have sinus pain, you may be able to walk them through the process of pressing on different parts of their face to figure out what’s causing it, if it is more serious then you can recommend going in to see a medical professional in person.
Telemedicine comes in many forms. Before you hop on a virtual appointment with your patient, encourage them to do a trial run to make sure they understand the system and work out any confusion. They may have to download an app, software or program, they may also have to wait for their turn in a virtual ‘waiting room’ - all of which will need to be clearly explained to your patients.
Ensure your patients are prepared so that they do not forget anything when consulting with you. Whether they have a call or video appointment, remind them beforehand to write down their symptoms, medicines they’ve taken, and questions they have.
Be sure that you and your patient are both in the spot with the strongest signal. A phone call can be a good backup plan.
Telemedicine is not a new concept, but the demand for Telehealth services has increased due to COVID-19. More and more doctors are opting to use Telehealth services now because it limits potential exposure to infections. This can be especially useful to patients who are considered high risk, such as the elderly population or patients with existing medical conditions.
Even if your patients live near your office, Telemedicine can be more convenient than traditional office visits. It eliminates travel time, cuts down on waiting rooms, and allows for more flexible scheduling outside of regular office hours.
Providing Telemedicine comes with a variety of benefits that can save you time and money. It’s important to remember, however, that telemedicine is not meant to take away from utilizing a primary care physician. Its purpose is to be an extension of your primary care services, providing new opportunities to gain and retain patients in a flexible way.