Telemedicine And You

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Technology allows us access to a wealth of information on a 24/7 basis and telemedicine extends that reach to include real-time communication with health care professionals. Telemedicine is growing regarding reach and usage, making general health care and specialty services easier to access while saving money.

What Telemedicine Means

At its core, telemedicine is the use of electronic devices to facilitate two-way, real-time communication between a patient and a health care provider. It can encompass apps, connected medical devices and audio/video conferencing that allows the provider to diagnose, treat or monitor a patient's condition. Technological advancements have brought telemedicine from a cutting-edge process to a
way to deliver health care services and benefits include:
  • Improved access to medical specialists and other providers to people in remote or rural areas.
  • Increased speed at which health care services are accessed, reducing wait times and increasing positive outcomes.
  • Reduced hospital readmissions due to improved patient follow-through of care plans due to case manager remote follow-up or connected medical devices.
  • Improved monitoring of chronic conditions and administration of preventative services.
Telemedicine improves overall outcomes and patient satisfaction while reducing costs, making it a win-win for everyone.

Telemedicine Apps

Smartphones and medical apps have created a process known as diagnosis by selfie, and it can be effective in non-life threatening situations. You take a photo of your rash, lump or bump and transmit it via an app for physician or nurse practitioner diagnosis. They will recommend a treatment and have a prescription sent to your pharmacist if needed. You don't need to include a photograph to use an app and receive immediate medical advice and most are available 24/7. There are several highly rated health care apps, and all of them are free to download on either an iPhone or Android, although some have fees comparable to a co-pay when you confer with the doctor.

Telemedicine and Physician Visits

For people who live in remote areas or want to meet with a specialist, telemedicine systems allow you to schedule an appointment and receive your consultation from the comfort and privacy of your home. Using video conferencing tools, you can have a face-to-face meeting with your doctor, discuss your medical needs, receive copies of all reports, and have prescriptions sent to your preferred pharmacy.

Several companies provide a range of telemedicine services including:
  • Teledoc which provides 24/7 access to US board certified physicians to address a variety of medical concerns.
  • Meadow MD which provides confidential physician evaluations for medical marijuana usage.
  • MD Live which is staffed 365 days a year, 24 hours a day by board-certified physicians, pediatricians and psychologists to address a wide range of physical and emotional issues.
For many patients, this type of visit offers privacy and convenience while reducing wait time. There are no transportation issues, which mean fewer canceled appointments, and even housebound patients can schedule and complete a doctor visit with full independence. Physicians enjoy the ability to create stronger patient-doctor relationships since they can schedule visits as needed rather than around patient transportation, work or other schedules.

Monitoring Chronic Conditions

Telemedicine is a great resource for people with chronic conditions such as COPD, diabetes, and other diseases. Wearable devices can record and remotely monitor a variety of
  • Heart rhythms
  • Respiration
  • Calorie intake and burn
  • Temperature
  • Physical activity levels
This data is sent to the physician or nurse case manager who is responsible for overseeing the patient's care. The use of these devices, combined with remote or in-person nurse follow-up visits, can identify potential problems and improve response time. This process also encourages patient compliance with treatment plans, improves outcomes and reduces health care costs for the patient and insurance company.

Requirements and Reimbursement

A growing number of insurance companies, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, offer coverage for telemedicine services as well as the technologies required to support it. Coverage varies by state as well as policy, and you will need to check with your provider to determine what is allowed.

As part of the appointment scheduling process, you may need to complete several online forms, just as you would if visiting a doctor's office, clinic, or hospital. To access telemedicine services a patient usually needs:
  • A computer with a camera and microphone
  • A reliable Internet connection
  • A valid government issued photo ID, insurance card or other relevant documentation.
If you are using a remote-accessed medical device, you will also need appropriate internet access to transmit the data. Your home health nurse or case manager can help you address these requirements.

Bottom Line

Telemedicine is not a new branch of medical care but a new way to deliver traditional services. Physician visits and chronic care management are now delivered more effectively and with a better follow-through which results in improved outcomes and patient satisfaction. Insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid embrace this cost saving system, and coverage is expanding for these services.