Now more than ever, there are a lot of good reasons for avoiding a trip to the doctor’s office or hospital. From limited availability of care in your region to contagion risk for immune-compromised individuals, there are many reasons why seeing a doctor in person might not be in the cards.
But doctors never want their patients to have to skip critical assessments or treatments. One way to bridge that gap is to take advantage of telehealth services.
There are some limitations to telehealth, but as the technology expands, new possibilities abound. Following are some of the newest and most interesting ways to use telehealth services.
You might think about testing as one of those things that has to be done in person. And that is true for certain tests. It’s hard to draw a vial’s worth of your own blood, for example. But an incredible number of diagnostic tests are now available to be performed at home with the results sent directly to your doctor.
This can include sleep studies, heart monitoring, even fetal ultrasounds. Of course, there are also many at-home tests that can give your doctor a clue about what you’re experiencing when you have your telehealth appointment. Patients can test at home for strep throat, STDs, pregnancy, and even diabetes.
Though at-home tests are generally not quite as sensitive as those at your doctor’s office, they are a good first step that can ultimately reduce the cost of diagnosing and treating many conditions.
If you are receiving treatment from your doctor for an ongoing condition that requires regular adjustments to medication, a telehealth appointment is an easy way to speak to your doctor about any side effects or symptoms you’re experiencing.
New prescriptions can then be submitted to the pharmacy digitally, keeping you on track with your meds without ever setting foot in the doctor’s office. Another reason that doctors love telehealth is that they can more easily check in on you to make sure you are taking your medicine correctly and that side effects are manageable.
Minor Urgent Care
No one likes to sit at Urgent Care or in the emergency room all day, but luckily, sometimes you don’t have to. There are certain emergencies that can be handled via telehealth, including rashes, pinkeye, fevers, allergies, nausea, headache, insect bites, and more.
And not only can you avoid the waiting room by scheduling a telehealth appointment, it typically costs way less than an in-person visit.
Birth Control Counseling
As long as you are up to date with your pelvic exam and pap smear, doctors can provide birth control counseling via video chat. Condoms and oral medications can be picked up at the pharmacy.
Other forms of birth control, such as an IUD or implant, will require an office visit. But telehealth is still great for getting advice and recommendations from your doctor.
Mental Health Care
Much of mental health counseling relies on conversation, and this can be done just as easily online as in person. In fact, telehealth can be a real blessing to people struggling with anxiety or depression, both of which can sometimes make it challenging to leave home.
If you need medication, a psychiatrist will ask to see you in person at least once. But it can take some time to discover the right medicine and dosage for you, and follow-up med checks can typically be done via telehealth.
Parents, especially new ones, have a lot of questions about what is normal and healthy for their child. But dragging a sick child into the doctor’s office can be stressful for everyone involved. Unless your son or daughter is experiencing an emergency that requires immediate attention, you can likely get help via telemedicine.
When there has been a seasonal spike in certain types of ailments, your doctor may be able to diagnose your child based on the symptoms you describe. You might be referred for further testing at that point or given a set of instructions to follow. Either way, beginning with a telehealth appointment means less stress and less travel for everyone.
When you have a surgical procedure, your surgeon will always want to see you again after a certain amount of time has passed. But unless you are experiencing complications, the doctor can often just as easily assess you via video chat.
You will have been given a list of complications to look out for upon discharge from the hospital, and the main thing the surgeon wants to know in follow-up is whether you are experiencing any of them. The doctor may also want to look at your incision to determine whether it is healing properly.
If you go the telehealth route, be completely honest about any pain, swelling, or redness you’re experiencing, since the doctor won’t be able to use touch to gauge these things.
These are just a few of the ways you can use telehealth technology to get the care you need and often save money at the same time. Telehealth will never be able to completely replace a visit to your doctor’s office, but the less we are forced out in public when we’re sick and the fewer trips we need to make between primary and specialist doctors, the better!