Scheduling and attending a doctor’s appointment can be challenging. It may involve juggling work and childcare schedules, driving during rush hour or sitting in a crowded waiting room.
It’s no wonder virtual care (also known as remote care, telehealth, telemedicine or online visits) is growing in popularity. Instead of an in-person visit, virtual care uses technology, including tablets, smartphones and personal computers, to connect you with care providers via the device’s camera. Some of the obvious advantages are convenience, quick access to care and time savings. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) pointed out that each virtual visit saves 106 minutes on average, compared to an in-person appointment.
There’s also a financial factor. Virtual visits often can cost as low as $40 or $50 per visit, much less than a trip to urgent care or an emergency room, and many insurance companies are now covering them.
Beyond the convenience and cost savings, here are three other features of virtual care visits that may surprise you:
1. It can be just as personal – if not more so – than an in-person visit.
While you may be concerned about getting advice through a video screen rather than in-person, doctors who provide virtual care are well-trained to make these appointments an “all-about-you” experience. They can attend to your concerns without distraction and diagnose a variety of conditions ranging from cold and flu to sinus problems or pink eye. Virtual care offers you that direct, one-on-one attention while you remain in the comfort of your home. It can be especially handy in times where it might be difficult to seek care due to severe weather.
2. You can show doctors your medications.
How often have you arrived at your doctor’s office only to realize you forgot to bring a list of your current medications and dosages? When you meet with a doctor virtually, you can simply show them, in real time, your vitamins, supplements, medications and any equipment you are using, such as wheelchairs or nebulizers.
3. Virtual care is expanding.
Your local doctor may already – or sometime soon – offer this service for routine care or to manage a chronic condition, such as diabetes or congestive heart failure. Virtual care can also be used to receive treatment for mental health conditions, such as stress, addiction, depression, loss and grief. This could change the landscape of care for people struggling with mental health, when nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population lives in regions with a shortage of behavioral health providers. Even the federal government is beginning to recognize the value of virtual care. Last year, Congress expanded insurance and Medicare payments for a variety of telehealth programs, enabling more people to access this type of care.
As technology continues to touch all aspects of our lives, you’ll likely experience a virtual care visit. Check with your health plan to see if virtual care is covered and whether you can register for them in advance. This resource has the ability to help make your life easier and help you get the care you need when you need it – all within the comfort of your home.
Virtual care is not intended to address emergency or life-threatening medical conditions and should not be used in those circumstances. Services may not be available at all times or in all locations.