22 Apr The Benefits of Telemedicine
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Telemedicine (also referred to as telehealth or e-health) allows health care providers to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients through the use of technology. In place of an office visit a medical appointment is done via a video call on either a computer, laptop, tablet, or smart phone. During these virtual visits, clinicians can also adjust medications as well as provide education and support to patients.
Telemedicine has been around for decades, according to the National Institutes of Health. In fact, in the late 1950s, a closed-circuit television link was established between the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute and Norfolk State Hospital for psychiatric consultations.
Until recently, telehealth has been slow to catch on. However, during the COVID-19 crisis, federal and state governments are urging medical offices to use the technology when possible–resulting in a surge of telehealth appointments. To that end, President Trump recently signed an executive order (beginning March 6, 2020) stating Medicare will temporarily pay clinicians to provide telehealth services for beneficiaries residing across the entire country. Prior to this announcement, Medicare was only allowed to pay clinicians for telehealth services, such as routine visits in certain circumstances.
How Telemedicine Works
Telemedicine visits work like just regular doctor appointments. First, call your health care provider to find out if they can provide telemedicine appointments. Many medical offices (doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed therapists) are able to offer virtual visits but may need to install special software.
- Call your health care provider to schedule a telemedicine appointment;
- Receive an e-mail or text which provides a link to connect with your provider;
- Sit in front any device with a camera (computer, laptop, tablet, or smart phone);
- Enjoy a private visit (or with a family member by your side) with your provider from the safety and comfort of your home.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, more people are taking advantage of the benefits of telemedicine. A member of our staff recently had a virtual visit with her doctor. She was amazed at how easy it was to connect with her doctor online and that he was on time for the appointment! Our staff member appreciated not having to spend time driving to and from her doctor’s office, and waiting in the reception area. Most importantly, she was able to stay home and stay safe from the coronavirus not exposing herself, her family, or the medical office to any possible risk.
Health care providers also appreciate the ease, convenience, and safety of telehealth. One nurse practitioner recently told me, “Health care providers are also concerned about exposure to ourselves and bringing any risk home to our families.”
Common Conditions Appropriate for Telehealth
- Assess Symptoms for COVID-19
- Arthritis Pain
- Intestinal Illness
- Insect Bites
- Bladder Infections/UTIs
- Sprains & Strains
- Sports Injuries
Conditions Not Appropriate for Telehealth
Telehealth should not used in medical emergencies or for the following serious life-threatening conditions. Do not be reluctant to call 911 go to the ER for a medical emergency. Hospitals have put strict triage procedures in place to limit exposure to COVID-19.
- Chest Pain
- Possible Stroke
- Difficulty Breathing
- Dizziness or Loss of consciousness
- Sudden Bleeding
- Severe vomiting/diarrhea
- Head Injury
- Severe Pain
- Suicidal thoughts
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