Not long ago, telehealth was an afterthought in the US, with a lot of patients unaware that it was even an option; but this has all changed as a result of the coronavirus. In 2019, just 11% of patients booked virtual visits; in 2020, that figure has reached 46%, and providers are advising that they are now holding 50 to 175 times the number of virtual visits they did before.
So why are the American people now turning to virtual care and their online doctor as a solution in 2020? Below are six of the most common reasons:
1. Specialist Care for All
For a lot of people who lived in rural areas, specialist doctors were incredibly inconvenient or difficult to access. Often hundreds of miles out of the way, they were an impossibility for many.
Telehealth has changed that. Now anyone can access a specialist doctor online using their computers, helping them obtain the specialist advice or care they need through the medium of a virtual visit.
Need a cardiac specialist but there isn’t one within a 200-mile radius? Have concerns about a rash but can’t find a dermatologist in your area? Online telehealth tools provide patients with increased, sometimes life-saving access to specialty care.
2. Reduced Risk
As we all know, sitting in a packed waiting room waiting for an appointment can feel like a risk in and of itself when you are feeling unwell. This is why the ability to obtain a visit from home is so important.
Instead of potentially sitting next to someone suffering from a highly infectious disease, patients are now able to arrange online visits and avoid this scenario altogether, reducing the quantity of patients in waiting rooms and thereby reducing the risk for those obliged to take physical appointments and even for practitioners themselves.
3. Reduced Costs
A virtual visit is cheaper than a physical visit, and with the Medicare coinsurance and deductible now potentially offered by your provider for virtual visits due to the coronavirus, a virtual visit is an incredibly appealing option.
If your symptoms feel too minor to warrant a physical visit but are concerning enough for you to want to get them checked out, you can set up an appointment with an online doctor.
In addition, patients no longer need to pay for gas or public transport to get there or arrange for childcare as the visit will take place in their own home.
4. Better Outcomes for Patients
As patients can get in contact with their personal doctor with the click of a button or contact them through the secure-messaging option in their patient portal, they feel better connected and in control of their health.
And as practitioners are more easily able to perform online check-ups, patients can feel the benefits of having a consistent and attentive doctor on hand, which will help them become better invested in their own care.
In a study of the impact of telehealth on a cardiac health program, the results indicated that there were 38% fewer admissions when utilizing telehealth than when not, and readmissions also dropped by as much as 31% in some areas. According to this study, the benefits of talking to a doctor online are striking.
5. Greater Convenience and Accessibility
Patients can simply pull up a chair and a laptop, click on a link sent to them by their provider, and then wait to join the virtual visit. No travelling, no convoluted planning around work commitments, no wondering how to keep the children happy and entertained for 30 minutes in a waiting room: everything takes place in the comfort of their own home.
Additionally, this remote contact has even greater benefits for patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Instead of back-and-forth trips to the clinic to see their personal doctor, they can monitor themselves with telehealth devices, submitting the results electronically for review. In this way, patients can monitor their health online without the inconvenience of having to be in and out of clinics every week or so.
6. Quick, Simple Prescriptions
An online doctor may not be able to see you in person, but they can still diagnose you and prescribe the relevant medications you need. This crucial step helps prevent the further inconvenience of having to collect your prescription from the clinic and then attending the pharmacy to collect the medications. Instead, you can head straight to your local pharmacy, prescription in virtual hand.
Seeing a doctor online may never replace physical visits, but the benefits can certainly not be ignored. Simple to set up, convenient to access, and with highly accessible telehealth devices available to help patients monitor their chronic conditions, talking to a doctor online has never been so easy, nor so effective.