Tips Virtual Doctor Visits Improve Accessibility to Care for Rural Communities
Your doctor wants to see you for a follow-up visit after having surgery. Perhaps, you need to meet with a dietician or are taking a new medication that requires weekly check-ins with a specialist. In each of these instances, we’re used to making an appointment, driving to the doctor’s office, then waiting for what seems like forever in the waiting room. But that way of thinking is changing with telehealth.
Telehealth — sometimes called telemedicine — is more convenient than ever before. Thanks to technology, using a computer, tablet, or even a smartphone, your doctor can diagnose, treat, and oversee your care virtually. It can include everything from conducting medical visits over the computer, to monitoring patients’ vital signs remotely.
Using telehealth to provide specialty services is also more feasible for rural healthcare facilities than staffing those rural facilities with specialty providers. Telehealth allows specialists to visit patients virtually, improving access as well as making a wider range of services available to rural communities including:
- Request prescription refills and have them sent straight to the pharmacy
- Remote patient monitoring i.e., tracking blood sugar, blood pressure or other vitals
- Counseling and mental health services
- Health resources and coaching
- Dermatology visits
- Ophthalmology services, + many more
Though in-person office visits may be essential in certain situations, telehealth offers many advantages including:
- Accessibility – ensure you get health care wherever you are located – at home, at work, vacation or even in your car
- Convenient – cut down on travel time, time off from work, and the need for childcare
- Saves time – online visits can shorten the wait for an appointment
- Provide increased access to medical specialists
Other important considerations include privacy, a secure and reliable internet connection, and insurance. Check your policy before scheduling a telehealth visit. There may be separate co-pays or other limitations set by your insurance provider.
Despite these limitations, many people continue to favor telehealth services for their ease of use, cost-savings, and decrease in travel time. One thing is for sure. Telehealth is poised to make a positive impact on healthcare and our communities, perhaps making life a little bit easier for us.