Getting sick and having to sit in a waiting room for hours to see a physician can be very frustrating. Not only is this time consuming for patients, it is also costly. Additionally, because of the overhead physicians are pressured to see more patients during their day and reduce the amount of time they spend with each patient. If that's not bad enough, many of these visits are simply not necessary. In fact, 60 percent of all patients that visit urgent care aren't in need of any medical attention, but rather looking for advice from a trained professional. With this in mind, telemedicine was born.
What is Telemedicine?
As the name implies, telemedicine is medical advise that can be given over the phone or Internet. The practice is relatively new but is catching on quickly. While not all medical issues can be diagnosed this way, many of the non-serious problems, which make up more than half of all doctor visits, can be.
Telemedicine also has the benefit of being a fraction of the cost that a real doctor visit would be. Patients also won't have to take off work just to make an appointment, as they can see doctors at any time of day. This is because telehealth connects users with physicians from all over the world. While it might be 3 AM where the patient is, it could be the middle of the afternoon for the doctor seeing them. This makes telemedicine ideal for cutting down on emergency room visits while also reducing the waiting time for those who do decide to visit the hospital.
How Telemedicine Started
Telemedicine was originally created as a way for doctors to share information about their patients with other doctors. For example, if a patient is on vacation and breaks their ankle, the doctor they visit may need to know their medical history. Since most people don't carry these files around with them, telemedicine was born. This allowed doctors to communicate with each other despite not being in the same area.
How Online Medical Care Has Evolved
Telemedicine has come a long way since originally debuting. In the beginning, the practice was done solely by doctors who needed information about their patients. This was commonly done over the phone since webcams, microphones, and Internet speeds weren't advanced enough to communicate effectively. The cost of telemedicine was also extremely expensive since doctors were often relying on long-distant phone calls. This required special hardware and technology, much of which was extremely hard to use.
As technology continued to improve, doctors hypothesized that they could communicate in a similar manner as Skype. This allowed physicians to communicate with other doctors around the globe without wracking up long-distant expenses. Even better, this also allowed doctors to see medical files rather than just having them described over the phone.
By using the Internet to communicate, doctors are also able to operate in real time. This easy access and low cost made the program highly efficient, so much so that doctors wanted to bring telemedicine to their patients. Thus, telehealth was born.
How Does It Work?
Using telemedicine from home is simple as long as users know how to operate a computer. To start, all users have to do is create an account on a telemedicine website. The account will be used to keep track of all medical information.
After creating an account, patients are asked to fill out a short medical history profile and a profile about their ailment. It's important to note that, while an online doctor can diagnose a wide range of problems, chronic illnesses may still require an actual trip to the doctor. Common problems, however, such as sore throats, ear aches, headaches, rashes, sinuses infections, urinary tract infections, and even upper respiratory problems can be treated all without ever leaving home.
Once a diagnosis has been made, the doctor may choose to submit a prescription for the patient via an electronic prescriber to the pharmacy of the patients choice.
Benefits Of Telemedicine
Aside from the sheer convenience of receiving online medical care, there are many other advantages to an online urgent care. While telehealth is still in its infancy, many predict that in just five years seeing a virtual physician will be a widely accepted practice.
In addition to the convenience of seeing a doctor from home, telehealth also offers five added benefits.
One of the biggest appeals to using webcam doctors is that they're able to offer medical care for a fraction of the cost. Most patients visit the doctor when they're not feeling unwell, but trying to get into a primary care physician can be challenge with a short notice, essentially this leads to more urgent care and emergency room visits, both of which are expensive. An emergency room visit alone can easily cost several hundreds of dollars for those who don't have insurance. Visiting a virtual physicians, however, only costs a fraction of this. Users also won't have to worry about taking off from work or paying for gas to get to their doctor. This means that patients are actually saving money when they decide to see an online doctor.
Ideal For Businesses
While web doctors can be used by any sized business, many smaller companies are finding relief thanks to telehealth. This is due to the staggering price of health insurance. Even worse, having one or two employees out sick can negatively effect small businesses, especially if they only have a handful of workers.
Thankfully, telemedicine can be used anywhere, including at work. In fact, more and more businesses are offering online medical care directly from the office. This allows employees who are feeling are not feeling well to receive instant medical care rather than going home.
Many waiting rooms already have rules in place regarding sick patients. This may range from making all patients wear a face mask to separating the healthy patients from the sick ones. Despite all this, the average waiting room is still crawling with harmful viruses, diseases, and other preventable illnesses. Even worse, patients who are already sick are more likely to pick up these sicknesses since their immune system is already weak. This is especially true in the winter months when many people are visiting the hospital due to the flu. When using web doctors, however, patients can limit their exposure to these harmful germs.
There are few things more wasteful than spending the entire day sitting around in a waiting room, yet that's what many patients do. While telemedicine may still require some wait time, the majority of patients are seen within about 12 minutes. If there aren't many doctors online, wait time can take as long as 30 minutes. Still, when you consider that most emergency rooms take hours to be seen, 30 minutes isn't that bad. Doctors also believe that wait time will improve as more doctors begin practicing telehealth.
Elderly, Travelers, And Self-Employed
Anyone with a computer can visit webcam doctors, but the elderly, travelers, and those who are self-employed will find the program particularly beneficial.
Many elderly patients require regular doctor visits to help combat the negative side effects of getting older. Unfortunately, another side effect of aging is a decreased sense of sight and sound. This can make driving difficult and unsafe, especially if no one is able to accompany the patient. When using telehealth, however, none of this matters as the patient can be seen from home for illnesses that are easier to treat.
The same is true for travelers. The last thing anyone wants is to become sick while on vacation, especially if it is in an unknown country. Fortunately, as long as the traveler has access to a computer, they can see a doctor without having to worry about expensive costs, unknown health laws, or poor treatment options.
Finally, many self-employed individuals are finding health and financial relief with virtual medicine. Typically, being self-employed means paying for your own health insurance or not having health insurance, either way out of pocket costs for health care is usually a concern for the self employed. Now, however virtual medicine can cut those costs significantly.