Telemedicine is the practice of medicine that uses technology to deliver care at a distance. A physician may be in one location while a patient is in another. The two parties interact via telecommunications so that the doctor may deliver patient care. Though the term telemedicine is used interchangeably with telehealth by some, the latter broadly refers to electronic and telecommunications technology and services used to provide care and services remotely. Both are on the rise, and people are asking, “Do Americans like it?” The short answer is yes. Let’s find out why.
The events of COVID-19 have led to an increase in telemedicine. Many patients prefer telemedicine to in-office visits because it is convenient. In the past, patients who needed a routine checkup, or felt ill, would call the doctor, schedule an appointment, and physically go to the doctor’s office to meet with their physician face to face. However, the telemedicine approach allows patients to be evaluated, diagnosed, and treated from the comforts of their home using telecommunications technology. Generally, an appointment is set up, and a patient receives an email containing instructions for communications and a login. Most times, the doctor and patient will communicate via computer conferencing. Often, the doctor and patient can see one another, and the appointment carries out much like a regular one, absent of in-office testing and physical contact.
Telemedicine has been used in a limited manner in the past. However, it got a boost mainly due to the stay-at-home order that accompanied the surge of COVID-19 cases. Now, since most people have access to computers and smartphones, they are finding it convenient to meet with their doctor remotely. Among the main advantage of telemedicine is that the patient does not have to venture out for non-emergency appointments. It spares them transportation time and gas costs, lost time in the waiting room, annoying work schedule interruptions, and it eliminates the need for parents with children to hire babysitters. Plus, by having the appointment from home, there is less risk of germ exposure. However, there are also some negatives of telemedicine. For example, patients may lack access to blood pressure monitors and other necessary equipment at home. And, for some, it may be a challenging and less personal experience not seeing the doctor in person.
It’s important to note that telemedicine is a choice between patient and physician. The decision to do an appointment using telecommunications technology versus going to the doctor’s office is deeply personal and should relate to numerous factors, including the patient’s overall health, reasons for the appointment, need for medical equipment access and testing, patient’s comfort level, and more. Because of the convenience of telemedicine, it may encourage less cancellations and an increased interest in one’s own health. During telemedicine appointments, patients often address medications, lifestyle and health choices, medical conditions, and other subjects of importance with their physician. This, in turn, may help them forge a better relationship with their medical provider for the greater good of maximizing health.
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