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  • Writer's pictureMelissa MacDonald DC

Telemedicine: What You Need to Know

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

You're feeling under the weather, or you have questions about your health, what are your options to get care?

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
  • Google?

  • Primary Doctor’s office?

  • Urgent Care?

  • Emergency room?

Physically going to the Doctor can be a high risk right now with COVID-19, and google most likely will tell you that its cancer and to see a physician. What if there was a better way? That i

s where telehealth comes in.

Telemedicine is quickly becoming a standard and mainstream way of providing care because of social distancing, but it is not a new idea; it first started in the 1950s. It initially began with a landline, with healthcare providers offering remote services so that patients didn’t have to leave their home, office, hotel, and beyond. Technology has changed, and telehealth has adapted now to include video conference calls. Laws and policies are changing to increase access to this convenience and low cost of this active channel for healthcare delivery.

So, what is precisely, and how can it benefit you now.

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the use of electronic communication to acquire health-related services. It allows for noncontact care to be provided from simple advice, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and even remote admissions. This means that where you would usually schedule an appointment with your primary care physician, you can now call them. This is a great benefit to you when an after-hour situation occurs. What if you could call an urgent care clinic and not have to drag everyone out of bed. Through telemedicine, the care you and your family needs can be received at a distance, and you still get the same medical advice anytime, anywhere, without leaving the comfort of your home. This method of communication has become an essential part of care, whether you are ready for it or not. Telemedicine is being used for any care that doesn’t require the Doctor to touch you, meaning virtual adjusting is not an option for chiropractors; but rehab exercises, home ergonomic checks, and nutrition checks can be done at a distance.

Telemedicine brings the Doctor to your home so you can discuss symptoms, medical issues, and more in real-time. With telemedicine, the diagnosis you receive can get you on your way to treatment options and prescription all from the comfort of your couch. With remote monitoring, your physician can keep an eye on your condition without multiple trips into the office. At MAC Performance, we utilize the system to assess pain and musculoskeletal issues to provide rehabilitative exercises and preform new patients history to reduce face-to-face contact. This type of care will never replace adjusting, but it does allow for timely updates without having to come to the office.

What’s the difference between telehealth, telemedicine, and virtual care?

The terms telemedicine and telehealth sound similar, but they have a significant difference between them. Telehealth refers to all types of medical communication and is an umbrella term for digital and remote healthcare services, which can include any form of technology used for communication. Telehealth is not a service but a way to improve patient care and assist with education. While telemedicine is explicitly healing at a distance, it still indicates evidence-based care involving medical and behavioral treatment rendered by the clinician. Virtual care can mean any digital contact with healthcare service between provider and patient, such as a simple reminder text messages, online chat, or video visits. MAC Performance offers telemedicine for managing your musculoskeletal pain at home with exercises, stretches, and/or taping techniques.

How is telemedicine delivered?

There are two common types of telemedicine:

  • Interactive medicine: This is direct face to face communication, typically done over video conference. This type of connection allows the provider to observe you while you perform a necessary exam, such as range of motion, walking, moving from a sit-to-stand, etc. The information can then be utilized for recommendations and provide driven care.

  • Remote patient monitoring: This is mainly used for monitoring blood sugar, blood pressure, but it might be something you are doing now on your phone with different fitness tracking apps or the heart rate monitors on our watches.

Does it take a long time to set up an account?

No. At MAC Performance, the account you set up for your patient portal is the same system used for telehealth. Additionally, the method used at the clinic comes with a smartphone app, Phystrack, so that you can take your exercises and rehab anywhere.

But telemedicine can only be used for simple issues, right?

Not at all. With today’s data-driven devices, physicians can deliver a complete, evidence-based experience in any medical specialty. Research has shown that a provider’s diagnosis primarily comes from taking an accurate history, which can be done quickly with telemedicine. This means that initiation of complex care can start here, at a safe distance. It’s helpful for a variety of health issues, including psychotherapy and dermatology. When talking to a dermatologist, they can consult on moles, rashes, etc. Your Family doctor can help with colds and flu, insect bites, sore throats, diarrhea, and pink eye. These are some common issues addressed using telemedicine.

A great example of telehealth use is if you suspect that a wound has become infected. Virtual consultation with your healthcare provider going over signs and symptoms would determine if you need antibiotics or not. If you’re at home and think you’re coming down with strep throat, you could communicate with your primary care physician. If you need a birth control medication, you can chat through an app on your phone and have your prescription the same day.

Beyond faster care, what are the other benefits?

If you are living in a remote area, frequently experience bad weather, or have a busy schedule that doesn’t always accommodate a physician visit; telemedicine can help improve your overall health and well-being by providing access. Remote consultations limit contagion when it comes to an infectious disease, like COVID-19, both protecting provider and you. The need for accessible healthcare is a driving force behind the use of telemedicine right now.

Research has shown that access to a telemedicine provider can reduce the need for visits to the emergency room and thus reduce costs. According to a 2017 study, the average telemedicine visit cost $79. The average Doctor’s appointment is $149, and the average trip to the emergency room is $1,734. Thus, allowing Hospitals to manage capacity better, keeping exam rooms and inpatient beds open for the sickest patients.

Is telemedicine secure and compliant?

Yes. MAC Performance has ensured the system utilized is both HIPAA and Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) compliant. This is differentiated from video chat systems that are not compliant, which include non-medical certified Zoom, FaceTime, and Facebook chat, for example.

When not to use telemedicine?

Telemedicine isn’t appropriate for all medical situations. An emergency is one of those situations. Examples are heart attack or stroke, deep cuts or lacerations that need stitches, or broken bones that would require x-rays, splints, or casts. Anything that requires hands-on care should be handled in person. However, telemedicine is beneficial for follow-up consultations of these conditions.

Give it a try

Telemedicine may be a viable option the next time you need a consultation about the sniffles, pain, or the use of a specific medication. A quick online check can let you know if your current provider offers telemedicine services.

Telemedicine will never replace going to the doctors, and it doesn’t mean that you will never visit a doctor. But it does make care more accessible and affordable in some cases. Plus, it can definitely help reduce the time you spend in your Doctor’s waiting room.

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