The Convenience of Telemedicine

Matt Noonan, CIC, RHU, CHRS, CCWS
What is Telemedicine?

As technology evolves, doctors are finding more ways to efficiently and conveniently care for their patients. One such method is through the use of telemedicine—a form of technology-based communication that allows a doctor and patient to communicate without being in the same physical space. Although telemedicine is not a complete replacement for direct patient care, it can be a useful tool for a variety of medical services, such as evaluation, diagnosis and prescribing treatment.

How Does Telemedicine Works?

Through the use of technology, communication is facilitated either in real-time or in a delayed setting. Usually a patient is able to communicate from his or her home with a doctor through live video or phone system. Doctors can see the patient and assess his or her symptoms, as well as obtain the patient’s records and medical history from electronic medical records.

Is Telemedicine a Substitute For In-Person Doctor Visits?

No. A virtual appointment is good for a number of mild conditions but is not suitable for severe symptoms like a high fever or a debilitating cough.  Additionally, you should not use a virtual appointment to seek treatment for chronic conditions, complex conditions, life-threatening conditions, anything requiring a test or hands-on exam or broken bones, sprains or other serious injuries.

Although telemedicine is not a full replacement of the care a patient can receive in a doctor’s office, it can help reduce barriers to receiving medical care. Many medical experts believe that patients who have difficulty traveling or who live in a rural area might have an easier time accessing medical care through telemedicine because it often eliminates the need for travel. In addition, patients who are recovering from illness or injury at home can be monitored by their doctors through telemedicine visits. It allows patients to remain in the comfort of their own home and potentially prevent further illness from exposure to germs in a hospital or clinic.

Use Telemedicine if:

  • You’re considering the ER or urgent care center for a non-emergency
  • You’re on vacation, a business trip or away from home
  • For short-term prescription refills

Telemedicine doctors can diagnose, treat, and often prescribe for over 70% of typical doctor office visits, including:

  • Allergies
  • Bronchitis
  • Cold
  • Flu
  • Respiratory infection
  • Sinus problems
  • Strep throat
  • Urinary tract infection
  • and more

Employers need to be aware that a stand-alone telemedicine benefit will most likely violate the ACA’s preventive care mandate and could subject an employer to potential excise taxes. To avoid this compliance problem, employers can structure their telemedicine benefits as a component of their group medical plans. Many of today’s group medical plans include one form or another of telemedicine services which are often offered at little to no additional cost.

Telemedicine is a service that can help reduce the barriers of time and distance to a hospital or doctor’s office and can connect a patient to a qualified physician through an app, phone or video, anytime, anywhere.