Virtual care has been available in the United States for several years now, but the merits of such a system have become much more apparent since the coronavirus first reached our shores.
Perhaps you’ve noticed a rash but don’t want to expose yourself to a waiting room full of other sick patients, or perhaps you want to have your sore throat assessed but don’t have access to childcare in order to be able to make the trip. Previously, your options would have been far more limited, but COVID-19 has changed all that.
Since the coronavirus arrived in the US, virtual care has taken off. It was predicted back in April that the number of telehealth visits would exceed 1 billion by the end of 2020 due to the dramatic upturn in virtual visits. Why has it had such a marked impact? Convenience, accessibility and cost are just three of the reasons why choosing virtual care has grown in appeal.
From the comfort of your own home, you can access the valued medical opinion of board-certified doctors using easy-to-download video conferencing applications. As you wait for your appointment to start, you can make yourself a coffee, catch up on the news or finalize that pesky report without having to share your space in a waiting room with other potentially infectious patients. Instead of having to plan travel time or work around bus timetables, you only have to plan for the time of the online visit.
This is ideal for patients who are not sure if their minor symptoms, such as colds, sinusitis, respiratory infections, rashes, or allergies, warrant a physical appointment. Instead of weighing up the pros and cons of travel, the patient can instead book a visit with an online doctor to assuage any concerns they have about their symptoms.
And by speaking with a doctor online, patients can receive quality advice as to whether they need to be seen in person without putting themselves or others at risk by physically travelling to see a physician.
Access to Healthcare Professionals
Access to healthcare has never been simpler or easier thanks to this newfound ability to manage and organize your own healthcare online.
Beyond the ease of video conferencing in this day and age, practitioners have been investing in methods of making symptom management even more accessible on a day-to-day basis. Electronic devices are now available for monitoring how well your body is functioning from your home, which includes, but is not limited to, processes such as:
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Blood glucose
- Respiratory function
- Sleep patterns
In addition to this, you can even access your own personal health record online, book your next online doctor visit, and refill prescriptions.
And if you have self-quarantined after traveling during the coronavirus epidemic, you don’t have to worry about your ability to access healthcare should you develop some unrelated symptoms.
With costs of physical visits increasing, the lower cost of virtual care is incredibly appealing. At $40-50, which is roughly half the cost of a physical visit, virtual care visits negate some of the concerns patients might have when considering whether or not to book virtual appointments.
As virtual care grows in popularity, insurance companies have also started to cover online healthcare. These insurance plans often offer clients the option of speaking to a practitioner online, which further reduces the cost of an already much more affordable visit.
Beyond the Coronavirus
The benefits of an expanding virtual care system do not have to stop there.
Telehealth was initially introduced to help patients in rural areas access an online doctor, but with the advent of COVID-19, practitioners have been investing heavily in improving their systems so that patients with chronic conditions can manage their health without having to physically visit a doctor every time they need a review.
With accessible electronic devices that can be used from home and results that can be sent electronically to a nurse practitioner for review, the future has never been more convenient for patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or depression. Moreover, patient portals even allow patients to order testing supplies and medications online.
When the impact of the coronavirus finally abates, its legacy should be a far-reaching, convenient telehealth system that is accessible to every patient.