Imagine that it is a weekend and the symptoms you started experiencing on Friday have become much worse by Sunday morning. You don't want to go to an emergency room as the cost is often very high and the wait times long. Most urgent care walk-in clinics are closed.
What do you do? Consider a virtual visit where you video chat live in person. Virtual visits are on the rise in telemedicine.
The common platform, Skype, is a typical way in which doctors and other health care providers can do consultations via the web instead of requiring a visit to the office.
This allows for easy visits when a patient does not feel well enough to come in or if the patient and doctor do not live in the same city.
Consultations can address a variety of issues, such as determining whether you have an upper respiratory infection, outlining a dietary plan, refilling a routine medication, reviewing lab results, and looking into hormone help.
Telemedicine may also be helpful for doctor-to-doctor consultations when the physicians are in different cities or even different countries.
Rural medicine is taking more advantage of this opportunity in order to get the benefits that larger cities with more expert specialists have to offer.
The downside is two-fold.
First, these virtual visits do not allow for a hands-on experience. If a patient needs someone to look in their ear, run a strep throat test or palpate a twisted ankle, a virtual visit may not be the best idea.
Some patients might not appreciate this scaled-down visit and feel that the live aspect is necessary in order to make the correct diagnosis.
The same goes for the health care provider who may decide to see the patient in person after discussing the case virtually.
Second, insurances are not yet covering these types of visits however that may soon change, as virtual visits may actually save money and lower downtime from lost hours on the job.