We all know time is money. When you have a minor ache or pain, you might decide that it just is not worth your time to schedule a doctor’s appointment or go to urgent care. In today’s fast-changing world, there’s now another solution: telemedicine.
What is Telemedicine?
According to the American Telemedicine Association, telemedicine is “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status.” This includes:
- Video conferencing between a patient and physician or nurse
- Uploading images to a clinic web service or sending them directly via email
- Displaying up-to-date patient information through a secure clinic portal
- Call centers
- Remote methods for taking vital signs
- Continuing education for medical professionals
This method of exchanging healthcare information has been in existence for over 40 years. With new advances made to technology, telemedicine has become more prevalent among medical providers and a viable method for delivering the best services possible.
Telemedicine can save both you and your healthcare provider time and money. Originally, it was catered toward individuals residing in remote, rural areas. Those that lived too far away from hospitals and clinics may be too ill to travel, or might not be able to afford the expense of traveling to a distant medical facility. Telemedicine can help resolve some of these issues, as it is a cost-efficient way to deliver medical care to everyone.
Imagine the following scenario. You are suffering from a cold and have heavy congestion. You have a history of developing sinus infections after having a cold and know what your symptoms have been like in the past. Sure enough, within a week, your sinuses are so swollen with pain that it even hurts to chew food. Instead of taking time off work to visit the doctor, your healthcare insurance allows you to video chat with the clinic.
The following day, you discuss the sinus issues with the doctor over a video conferencing website through the clinic’s portal and have your prescription emailed to the pharmacy. Your doctor visit was more cost effective for you and for your doctor.
For those of us who are too busy, are physically unable to travel due to health or age, or are living too far from a medical facility, telemedicine is now a viable alternative option. Telemedicine is part of the evolution of health insurance.
Every healthcare insurance provider has different requirements for telemedicine. You will need to speak to your insurance agent or your employer’s human resources department to enquire about the services available for your policy. The services may range from video chatting to accessing recent medical records online.
Many other companies are now supporting telemedicine services. Google may soon launch a “Talk with a Doctor” feature imbedded within its existing search engine. If you look up information about a particular health issue, the new feature will appear as part of your results page. There are also other websites now offering telemedicine, which you may have to pay for out of pocket. National pharmacy chains have also started to build medical kiosks for patients to ask questions.
If you receive healthcare insurance through a government-funded program, consider the following information.
Under Medicare, you will be reimbursed for certain telemedicine services if you live in an area of the country that is designated as a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) or outside of a metropolitan area. As a patient, you must also be at an “originating site” that includes a nursing facility, mental health center, hospital, doctor’s office, or qualifying health center. The doctor with whom you are communicating via audio or video is not at your “originating site” but whose consultation is necessary.
Incorporating telemedicine into Medicaid plans is determined at the state level. This includes all aspects of telemedicine, including the type of telemedicine, participating clinic locations, amount allowed to practitioners for reimbursement. If telemedicine is not available in your area, the state is legally required to ensure that you have access to face-to-face doctor visits.
Consider Buying A Telemedicine Plan
According to Jason Mitchell, M.D., director of the American Academy of Family Physicians Center for Health IT, “Telemedicine is not different medicine. It’s a different interaction. Providers interact with patients and develop an intervention. Telemedicine does not mean telehealth. It’s an integration of technology and care.”
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