Telemedicine is not new, but it has gained momentum over the past several years as healthcare technology has enabled more patient-centered care. Telemedicine enables the remote delivery of healthcare services via electronic information and telecommunication technologies like the internet or telephone.
This means that patients have the ability to connect with a health care provider via live video chat, or chat with a nurse over a secure app, or send and receive digital copies of x-rays from a specialist. It’s an exciting time to be alive! In fact, according to the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), there are more than 200 telemedicine networks with 3,500 service sites in the US. More than half of all hospitals use a form of telemedicine. Despite these healthy numbers, telemedicine (sometimes referred to as telehealth) is not yet supported by all providers or insurers. That said, there are numerous benefits to telemedicine, so we’re going to look at some of the reasons why it’s awesome.
For those who live in big metropolitan areas, finding an in-network doctor may seem like a breeze. However, for those who have unique health insurance or who live in rural areas, it can be difficult to find local doctors that accept a particular insurance plan. Telemedicine enables these people to easily access in-network providers and can cut down on unnecessary out-of-pocket costs related to health care.
Telemedicine also makes it easier to access specialists, especially for those who live in small towns. Specialists are harder to come by and an in-network specialist may be quite a distance away. The pool gets smaller when it comes to those who require the help of a specialist for very specific or rare conditions where there are only a handful of experts with the appropriate level of knowledge. Telemedicine enables access to these specialists and can facilitate secure virtual connections so you can consult with those that accept your insurance but who may be a plane ride away.
We’ve all been there: you need to squeeze in a doctor’s appointment but your schedule is crazy so it needs to happen in the next week. You call the doctor’s office only to find out the first available appointment isn’t for another two and a half weeks. If you’re a new patient, it can be even longer, especially when you factor in the time it takes to transmit insurance information to make sure that this particular doctor accepts your plan. Even the first available appointment can be at inopportune times that require you to take time off work or make trade-offs with other parts of your schedule. It’s a painful process. Telemedicine often enables same-day or next-day appointments due to its convenient nature. In most cases, you can peruse the provider’s schedule online and select a convenient time on your own, without having to call an office or be placed on hold.
In some cases, you may not require a complete, in-person appointment with your doctor. Perhaps you just want to check-in on or ask questions about recent lab results or about a new medication you’ve started. Without telehealth services, this requires you to call into the office to play a game of “relay the message” with whoever you speak to on the other line. With telehealth, you may be able to chat directly with your provider through a secure email or chat application. Not only is this more convenient, but it enables you to access your provider directly to get the answers you need.
You can’t beat a doctor visit that happens right inside your own home. As a self-employed person, getting to coordinate activities around your home base is a perk. With telemedicine, it’s no different. You may be too sick to venture out to the doctor’s office or you may be sick on vacation or somewhere that inhibits you from seeing the doc face-to-face. Telemedicine allows you to connect to your doctor over an internet connection from wherever you are so you can get the care you need.
Thanks to telemedicine apps, you can now have access to more transparent care—and pricing. Whether you’re looking to visit an urgent care center or to connect with a provider for care online, many apps enable you to see pricing for different services at different locations in the spirit of transparency. This can help you to compare costs between centers and services to see which works best for your budget. You shouldn’t forego care to save money, and telemedicine apps can help you narrow down options to one that can help without breaking the bank.
It may sound silly, but the status quo has been to lock up patient records in a healthcare system that relies on fax machines to transmit important health information. As healthcare institutions undergo digital transformation, most of that data is available in digital format. Telemedicine facilitates the easy (and secure) transmission of these records as well as simple patient access to their electronic health records (EHRs). You can now search, view and send your own medical information and forms. It’s no longer necessary to rely on health centers and offices to be the gatekeepers of your health information.
Some people may take time to adjust to this new way of doing things. Many still prefer to meet with a doctor in person for all health-related interactions. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but it’s nice to have more convenient options for those that desire them. The added convenience and transparency are making telemedicine a popular way to administer and receive health care in the U.S., especially as health care becomes increasingly patient-centered.
Good news! Decent health plans include 24/7 direct telephone access to your doctor! In fact, our plans come with free primary care (yep—100% included in your monthly premium) because we believe in upholding the doctor-patient relationship. Get your free quote today and see how Decent can help you get affordable, comprehensive health care coverage.