The phrase “The doctor will see you now” has taken on a whole new meaning since the pandemic.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced many Californians to skip in-person healthcare visits with doctors and primary care providers and instead chat with them about anything that ails them via video/online, which is also known as telehealth/telemedicine.
Once considered a futuristic form of healthcare, telemedicine has rapidly evolved and redefined the medical industry. The future is now it seems, and telehealth may be our “new normal.”
According to a recent article in AARP (June 2020 bulletin) https://www.aarp.org/bulletin/ by medical investigative journalist Jeanne Lenzer, 84% of patients said, “they prefer the convenience of telemedicine access and are likely to select a provider who offers telemedicine over one who doesn’t.”
The AARP article also cites a 2019 study/review by the prestigious Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) which found that telehealth consultations produced either better outcomes or no differences and that remote intensive care unit consultations likely reduce mortality. In addition, emergency medical services and urgent care telehealth programs reduced death from heart attacks, led to more timely care, and reduced the need for air transfers.
The studies also revealed that remote treatment by video or telephone was especially useful for patients with “limited mobility or difficulty traveling due to agoraphobia and those suffering from anxiety and/or depression.”
Consulting with your doctor via video/online is just one facet of telehealth,” according to AARP. It also includes programs like at-home patient monitoring and physician-to-physician consults such as tele-radiology, where CT scans and MRIs are interpreted by radiologists who can be on a different continent than the patient’s doctor.
Of course, telemedicine can never replace the up-close and personal interaction between doctors and patients and is most effective for non-threatening health issues and concerns.
While there are those who are on the fence and haven’t completely warmed up to the idea of telemedicine, AARP offers a few guidelines to help make the leap less intimidating. They include:
- PICK A PROVIDER: If you don’t already have one, choose a licensed healthcare professional. Do research online and ask questions upfront before paying for a visit to a doctor you’re unfamiliar with. To verify the license status of a medical professional licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs, visit https://search.dca.gov.
- PREPARE FOR YOUR “VISIT:” Make sure you have a reliable computer, notebook, or tablet with a good internet connection. It’s best to be in a room that’s quiet and has ample lighting. In some cases, you can also do a regular phone interview with your doctor.
- HAVE YOUR PRESCRIPTIONS WITH YOU: Although your primary care doctor will have access to the medications you’re taking, it’s always a good idea to keep them handy in case you have any immediate questions or must fill out a questionnaire pertaining to your meds.
- LISTEN CAREFULLY AND ASK QUESTIONS: Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. Write down your questions or concerns ahead of time so you won’t forget anything. Go through each one and make sure they are answered to your satisfaction.
More than anything, telemedicine helps patients and medical staff adhere to physical distancing guidelines. It also eases the loads of doctors and nurses and allows them to focus on patients with severe illnesses. However, if you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 for immediate assistance.