Once upon a time — before the internet made everything easier — it was common to contact a travel agent to book travel, use payphones to make calls, and memorize phone numbers. However, doing things online has become part and parcel of modern living. It has replaced maps and encyclopedias and ensures fast and effective research results and instant communication. But, when it comes to medical services, it still makes sense to schedule an in-person appointment with your healthcare provider. Or, does it?
What is a Virtual Doctor’s Visit?
Just as the name implies, a virtual doctor visit is one you do online. However, don’t let the novelty of the concept scare you. When you schedule a virtual appointment, you meet via a video teleconference with a board-certified doctor. They are just as qualified as a physician you visit in-person — with many of them also conducting consultations at their office. The practice — also known as telehealth or telemedicine — is gaining popularity, and making it more convenient for patients to seek medical advice.
How Does it Work?
Virtual doctor appointments are not appropriate to treat emergencies. If you’re dealing with a life-threatening situation, always call 911 or go to an emergency room. However, if your need for a medical consultation is due to simpler issues or for follow-up care, telehealth can provide effective treatment.
During a virtual doctor visit, you will discuss with a medical professional about what ails you. For example, if you’ve recently developed back pain, you suspect you may have a common cold or flu, or you are concerned a cut may be infected, a doctor can assist you online. The doctor will ask questions about your symptoms, medical history, and other medications you may be taking to determine the best course of action. And, you can use the high-definition video to show the medical provider any physical symptoms.
Your doctor can also prescribe medications — with the most common ones being antibiotics. If the physician is unsure about your diagnosis, they will refer you to a laboratory for testing. Once your results are ready, they are sent to your virtual doctor, who will then review them and recommend a treatment plan.
There are many medical conditions that can be diagnosed and treated during a virtual doctor visit. The most common ones include:
- Common cold
- Back pain
- Gastrointestinal/digestive issues
- Minor cuts and/or burns
- Sports injuries
- Urinary tract infections
- Follow-up care for diabetes
- Other conditions that are not life-threatening
5 Advantages of a Virtual Visit Over an In-Person Appointment
1. Receive Medical Advice from Anywhere
Depending on where you live and/or your living circumstances, scheduling an in-person appointment may require a lot of planning — arranging child care, transportation, and sometimes having to travel great distances to seek medical care. With telehealth, you can consult with your doctor from the comfort of your own home. Traveling to go on vacation or to visit relatives? You can still talk to your doctor without having to wait until your return.
2. Schedule Flexibility
Traditional in-person doctor visits may require you to take time off work or cancel engagements. You have to rearrange work responsibilities or postpone social activities you were looking forward to. You also have to take into account things like rush-hour traffic and your kids’ after-school activities. Telemedicine allows you to schedule your online appointment at a time that best fits your schedule — allowing you to minimize interruptions.
3. No Waiting Rooms
When you schedule a virtual consultation with a doctor, your medical provider will be ready to start the visit for the scheduled time. You can bypass wasting time sitting in a waiting room — as well as eliminating exposure to other patients who may have contagious diseases or exposing them to any infectious ailment you may be experiencing.
4. It Saves You Money
Healthcare in the United States can be exorbitantly expensive. An average visit to the doctor could cost you between $130 and $180. Meanwhile, the average cost of a telehealth consultation is between $40 and $50. And, many health insurance providers — including United Healthcare, Aetna, Humana, Cigna, and Medicare — are offering coverage options.
5. Easier Medication Management
Certain chronic conditions — such as autoimmune disorders, diabetes, or high blood pressure — require regular follow-up visits or frequent monitoring. Virtual doctor appointments allow your physician to ensure you’re responding well to prescribed drugs as well as discuss any concerns regarding side effects without having to make in-person doctor appointments a regular part of your routine.
If You Need a Virtual Medical Consult, Let Us Help You
At St. Hope, we serve many patients living with a myriad of medical conditions. We believe that treating people with compassion is as important as the medicine they receive. We foster a trusting patient/medical provider relationship to ensure that everyone who walks through our doors feels comfortable and receives the care they deserve — and we do so in-person and online.