Once You Try Telemedicine, There’s No Going Back
It’s the best way to stay in touch with health care providers during a period of social distancing — and probably in the future, too
If you haven’t yet hopped on for a video chat with your doctor, chances are good in this Covid-19 era you will. Many doctor’s offices are now switching to telemedicine services for both well and sick visits to protect patients from potential Covid-19 exposure. The Trump administration and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced earlier this month they would essentially be removing red tape for telehealth services, lowering the cost for many patients, and making it easier for doctors to provide this service.
That means that in the coming weeks and months (and beyond), you might have appointments — whether for suspected Covid-19, annual visits, or health problems — on your phone or computer. These can be done with a doctor over video, phone call, or texting, and can be accessed a few ways: via your current doctor, hospital system, or insurance company; with a specialized telehealth provider, like Doctor on Demand; or via a clinic like CVS Minute Clinic’s Video Visit or Walgreens’ MDLIVE doctor video call.
“Doctors can carry out a physical exam just looking at you.”
What is telemedicine, and is it really effective?
Telehealth can be provided over the phone, through texting, or videoconferencing. It’s basically Skyping with your doctor. Your provider will talk to you about your medical history and current problems, and this information, coupled with what they can hear and see over a computer screen is surprisingly telling. “Doctors can carry out a physical exam just looking at you,” says Tania Elliott, MD, a telemedicine and immunology expert in New York City who has seen over 8,000 patients via telehealth in her career. She says that the first thing your doctor is looking for when they see you — in person or on a screen — is whether or not you appear ill (sweating, pale skin, bluish lips, glassy eyes) as well as your respiratory rate (Are you speaking in full sentences? Can you take a deep breath?).