Throughout this year, it should come as no surprise that the healthcare industry has seen a shift from in-person care to virtual appointments. The CDC reports that during the last week of March 2020, there was a 154% increase in telehealth visits compared to the same week in 2019. While meeting with your doctor in the comfort of your own home is certainly convenient in non-emergency situations, there are limitations to consider as well when deciding which option is right for your care.
Telehealth services give patients the flexibility to access healthcare from the privacy of their own home, and in some cases, patients have the option of choosing an appointment time that works best for their schedule. This spares them from potentially missing work or school and saves time by allowing the patient to skip the waiting room delay.
Virtual appointments give physicians a way to reach patients who live in areas where medical resources may not be readily available. Patients with mobility concerns or limited access to transportation can also rest assured knowing they can still meet with their doctor without worrying about how they will get to their physician’s office. Telemedicine also allows patients in high-risk categories to keep up with routine or follow-up visits without worrying about putting themselves at risk in a doctor’s office where they may encounter sick patients.
- Higher Awareness
Patients who believe that their doctors are readily accessible and involved in their care could be more likely to reach out with questions. If a patient knows they can easily reach their physician without the barrier of scheduling an office visit each time, they may be more willing to proactively report early warning signs and keep up with their follow-up appointments.
The amount of money a patient might spend on travel, childcare, and missed hours at work all for the sake of driving to the doctor’s office can really add up. Depending on a patient’s insurance, they may also find themselves paying less for their virtual appointment than they would for an in-person visit.
Not every doctor’s visit can or should be conducted virtually. Procedures like imaging tests and blood work, as well as certain diagnostic procedures, will still require a physical visit to a doctor’s office. In some cases, the patient may be asked to come in for a visit anyway in order for the physician to run tests with the necessary equipment. Physicians are limited to what they can see and what their patient tells them during a video appointment and could miss out on nonverbal cues or behaviors. Telehealth visits are also not intended to be used during an emergency.
- Technology Issues
Without a good internet connection, the quality of your virtual doctor’s visit could be compromised. If the patient or physician has to stop the appointment due to a poor connection, time is wasted and the patient will have to spend additional time to attempt a rescheduled visit. Additionally, not everyone has the physical capability to use the technology needed for virtual appointments.
- Data Security
Personal information that gets posted online can be susceptible to hackers, especially if the patient is using a public network during their telehealth visit. Criminals could potentially access a patient’s medical data if proper precautions aren’t being taken by both the patient and physician.
- Patient-Provider Relationship
In some cases, patients may still opt to meet in their doctor’s office simply because they prefer an in-person connection. Meanwhile, telehealth patients may prefer to see the same healthcare professional for each telehealth visit, but this isn’t always possible for certain on-demand services. Keeping track of appointments across several different physicians can make it harder for doctors to keep up with a patient’s medical history.
Before opting for virtual visits, patients should talk with their doctor to make sure telehealth is an appropriate option for their specific medical situation.
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