Just a couple of generations ago, doctors routinely made house calls. Now, they’ve returned to this old-fashioned practice in a decidedly new-fangled way. They’re visiting patients virtually. Enter the era of the online doctor.
Widely known as telehealth, online medical appointments are gaining a strong following. According to McKinsey’s research, telehealth usage jumped by 38X between 2019 and 2021. And the reasons behind this leap forward have been the benefits to both patient and provider.
It’s not difficult to understand why patients appreciate being able to speak with nurses and physicians digitally. Being able to get seen remotely takes away all the barriers to commuting. These barriers include finding a ride or leaving work for hours. Plus, telehealth appointments can cost less than their in-person counterparts.
They also allow people who are feeling physically ill to avoid the discomfort of leaving home. Who could argue with the thought that it’s probably better for those with contagious viruses and colds to avoid crowded places?
Yet patients aren’t the only driving force behind the telehealth boom. Far from it, actually. Healthcare workers are also finding the upside to this significant medical and social trend. In fact, a survey conducted by the American Medical Association found that 85% of doctors are using telehealth. So what’s behind their high regard for this future-leaning treatment vehicle? Check out the following five highlights of remote healthcare.
1. Unrushed care is the norm.
No one likes to be rushed or to wait too long. Unfortunately, both experiences are commonplace in traditional medical offices. The whole schedule is thrown out of balance as soon as one patient arrives late or a diagnostic machine malfunctions.
Telehealth helps break away from this problem because the only requirement for the visit is a digital connection. The result is a more focused experience for both patient and physician. As one HealthTap online doctor explains, “Our practice puts the patient’s needs first. … It is great to work on a platform that engages inquisitive patients and thoughtful experts.”
2. More patients can receive care daily.
Telemedicine appointments tend to be more concise than their in-person counterparts. They’re still thorough but just aren’t as long, on average. This allows physicians and nurses to help more patients each day while still delivering an exceptional patient experience.
Just how much time do telehealth visits save? One scientific study showed a difference of about nine minutes per appointment when looking only at otolaryngology visits. That may not sound like a lot, but the minutes add up over a course of a week. It also goes to show that telehealth isn’t limited to general practitioners. Specialists are embracing the concept, too.
3. Patients from rural communities can receive healthcare.
It can be difficult for people living far away from urban centers to get healthcare when and where they need it. In 2020, just 11% of doctors practiced in rural communities. Accordingly, many patients travel an average of 70 miles just to get the treatments they need.
Telehealth has shown itself as a trustworthy way to bridge the gap for individuals and families who don’t live close to clinics or hospitals. For providers, that’s a huge asset. An online doctor can work with a broader population and expand their scope and reach. Additionally, they can give non-urgent care where it’s most desperately needed.
4. Providers can get access to next-level tech innovations.
With the rise in telemedicine has come the right medical advancements. The medical community has gained quite a bit of tech-related momentum thanks to new apps, systems, and devices. Providers who use telehealth are exploring all of these.
Take the use of apps and connected devices, for instance. Patients with known cardiac conditions can wear devices that send messages remotely to providers. The providers can therefore stay on top of their patients’ health responses and order tests or set up appointments as needed. Even patients who are generally not compliant about keeping visits can be monitored from afar.
5. Physicians and hospitals can charge patients less.
For most people, especially those without insurance, going to the doctor is a difficult decision. Unless it’s an emergency situation, many individuals will forgo care to save dollars. What they are discovering is that physicians can help them shave out-of-pocket costs through telemedicine.
As a CNBC article explains, a telehealth check-in with an online doctor can cost nearly $70 less than a conventional, in-person one. Many insurance plans are jumping on the telehealth price reduction bandwagon, too. In some cases, that means a lowered copay for a secure video portal visit. From physicians’ perspectives, the smaller price tag means a higher chance of people keeping their commitments and avoiding problems associated with undiagnosed conditions.
Medicine is just tapping into telehealth’s potential. Medical care will evolve even more if patients and healthcare workers keep pushing for more virtual options. For many, the ultimate goal is for everyone to be able to access the medical treatment they need regardless of boundaries. And eager, motivated providers are helping move the world closer to that reality.