Have you ever been too sick to leave the house? Or too busy to visit a doctor’s office? This healthcare paradox can make it hard to get the help you need. And that’s why telemedicine is so important.
Empowered by the recent wave of technology, telemedicine brings the doctor to you. House visits, via modern technology, are back, and waiting rooms are out.
What is telemedicine?
Perhaps evident by the name, telemedicine is a doctor’s visit completed via technology. Using secure web platforms, telemedicine connects patients to doctors online. When visiting a doctor from the convenience of a video chat, you can receive quality care in the privacy and comfort of your home.
The growth of telemedicine in the United States
Healthcare costs and insurance coverage have been a concern in the United States for quite some time. The struggle for affordable healthcare and insurance coverage issues can be traced back to the 1960s when partial insurance coverage and healthcare demands first began inflating costs.
At the same time telecommunication methods were taking off. Telemedicine was a natural next step for this technology.
While telemedicine might seem like a new development, it has actually been evolving for several decades. The first-ever video call for healthcare purposes happened in 1959. Experts at the University of Nebraska used video services to complete remote neurological examinations.
Of course, telemedicine didn’t really take off until the rise of the internet. Since then the rate of telemedicine has consistently risen.
It is now commonly used by patients and physicians across the nation. According to the Telehealth Index: 2019 Physician Survey, physician telehealth adoption is up 340% from 2015, and 93% of experts said it improves patients’ access to care. This increase in popularity has established telemedicine as a long-term entity in the US.
Why is telemedicine important to healthcare’s future?
Quick access to the care you need
Have you ever tried to make a doctor’s appointment, but couldn’t be seen for several weeks? The 2018 Merritt Hawkins Survey on patient wait time revealed a serious issue in the United States with physician availability. The survey states, “For mid-sized markets, the average wait time to see a family medicine physician is 56.3 days and ranges from a high of 122 days in Albany, New York to a low of seven days in Billings, Montana.”
When you need immediate care, waiting several weeks or months may not be an option.
Telemedicine provides quick patient onboarding. Patients can be connected with the first available doctor within the system. To minimize wait times, instead of seeing the first available doctor in your area, telemedicine lets you see the first available doctor, period.
Control the amount of time you spend with your doctor
Telemedicine is perfect both for patients who are looking for quick visits and for those who don’t get enough time with their doctors.
Quick visits for infections or colds
When you are fighting bacterial infections, time is of the essence. Unfortunately, you might not have the time and energy for a traditional doctor’s visit. This requires you to make an appointment, get yourself to the doctor’s office or the ER, wait for your turn, and then wait for your prescription or treatment to be filled. Not only does this create an unnecessary hassle for you, but it also extends the time between you and the care you need to start feeling better.
Telemedicine lets you skip the wait and the trouble.
Instead, instantly connect with your doctor on the phone or computer. You can simply describe your symptoms or show them any visible indicators of an illness. Your doctor can then send your prescription to your pharmacy right away.
Extended doctors’ visits for quality care
Conversely, most illnesses run deeper than a surface-level cold. These cannot be solved by quick-and-easy fixes.
Conventional medicine has widely become transactional, “bandaid” care. A prescription puts a bandaid on your symptoms, since nobody has time to help you work through the underlying causes of your symptoms.
The average doctor’s visit in the US is just 20-minutes long. This is often not enough time to examine your symptoms, discuss your medical history, explore possible contributing factors, and give you the attention needed to address your illness at its source.
In telemedicine, you might pay for 30 minutes or an hour of your physician’s face-to-face time. There are no distractions during that time.
This is the space Vytal Health occupies. We’re not doing the quick urgent care telemedicine, though we’re glad such opportunities exist. We’re here to step in and provide the face-to-face time with doctors that patients haven’t seen in a couple generations.
That’s why Vytal Health focuses on holistic, functional medicine. Functional medicine focuses on an extensive medical history and lab work to get at the root causes of your symptoms. Most initial appointments are an hour long.
Having the time necessary to gain a deep understanding of your medical history and symptoms allows you and your doctor to arrive at your best possible solutions.
Telemedicine brings cutting edge (and natural) medicine to all
Conventional medicine can be seen as one-size-fits-all. It is demanding of patients, requiring the ability to visit the doctor’s office and meet a specific schedule. One important element of telemedicine is the wide range of individuals it accommodates,. Telemedicine is especially important for those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to quality care.
- Accessible care for individuals with a disability or chronic illness
- If your symptoms are hard to manage, leaving the house might be an ordeal. How can you get the care you need if you can’t leave the house?
- Illnesses and certain disabilities can put physical and mental barriers between you and the outside world. Telemedicine provides a way out. At-home care can help you begin addressing these symptoms.
- Telemedicine accommodates busy schedules
- Are you a working parent? Perhaps a full-time student? It is easy to let your healthcare fall second to other areas of your life. It can feel impossible to find the time to go sit for half an hour in a waiting room in order to meet with your doctor for five minutes.
- Managing your home life, children, school, work, or other scheduling leaves little time for care. Ironically, stress, like the stresses of parents and students, makes you sicker. It is even more essential that you connect with a doctor. The ease of telemedicine allows you to plan doctor’s appointments around your busy schedule.
- Quality care for patients in rural areas
- Great healthcare should not be limited to patients in certain geographic areas. However, many individuals battling serious symptoms have to travel several hours to get the kind of medical care they want.
- If your area does not yet have the type of practitioner you’re looking for, such as functional medicine or naturopathic doctor, telemedicine can help you access this care. All you need is an internet connection and a camera.
How does telemedicine work?
Security and privacy
Privacy is an essential part of healthcare. It can feel disconcerting to have your medical information running through your personal device. Using the latest security measures, such as data encryption, providers can protect you and your security. How do you know that the video stream is secure? Telemedicine platforms use HIPAA-compliant video providers. This means that your online sessions will meet the same privacy standards as traditional medical visits.
Assessment and care
Telemedicine gives you the unique advantage of selecting your doctors after meeting them online. You can read their bios to learn about their areas of specialty, experience, and availability. You can then choose the doctor who you think is the best match for you.
Telemedicine often begins with an initial assessment, starting with the symptoms you are experiencing. What is bringing you to seek professional care? You might be asked to take a symptom quiz or answer a questionnaire to give your doctor insight. With a functional medicine network, this questionnaire will ask you to give close details that will help your doctor understand your life, medical history, and any other factors that could impact your illness.
With platforms like Vytal Health, you will also be connected with a care concierge to help you through new patient onboarding. This expert will answer any questions you may have and help guide you through the patient portal and the onboarding process.
After your first visit, your doctor will develop a care plan with you. This includes a recommended visit cadence, any lab tests you may need, and any recommended supplements.
Over time, your doctor will continue to work closely with you to understand your health. They will help you troubleshoot your signs and symptoms until you arrive at the core of your illness. Your doctor will then help you explore the solutions available to you and continue to help you through them.
Why bring functional medicine to telemedicine?
In the spirit of this doctor accessibility, functional medicine online platforms like Vytal Health give you direct access to your care specialists. This platform offers a communication portal to message your pharmacist, care concierge, and doctor.
Functional medicine also provides a very deep form of holistic patient-centered care. Your doctor spends time getting to really know you. Telemedicine lets you form this connection with your doctor from your home rather than a sterile doctor’s office. Telemedicine accommodates your best interest, just like functional medicine.
Finally, functional medicine might not currently be available in your area. Telemedicine gives you access to quality functional medicine no matter your location.
The future of telemedicine
As the telemedicine market grows, more and more patients will likely continue to see doctors remotely. The telemedicine market is expected to exceed $130.5 billion in value by 2025. To accommodate this growth in telemedicine, medical student training often now also includes aspects of telemedicine. With this shift, we will likely see healthcare become more accessible as well as a continued improvement in the quality of care patients receive.