9 Facts About Telemedicine That Everyone Should Know

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Telemedicine is a relatively new approach to visiting the doctor, and if you have not already used telemedicine, it may be a choice for you in the near future. It may sound a little bit like The Jetsons- but the truth is that telemedicine is becoming a reality for more and more patients and doctors. So now is the time for you to get the facts about telemedicine.

Health insurance plans are beginning to add telemedicine to their list of covered health care services.

What does this mean for you as a stroke survivor? What does telemedicine mean for you as the caregiver of a stroke survivor? Can you use telemedicine if you ever are in a situation when you think you might be having a stroke?

1. Telemedicine is a different option when it comes to a traditional sick visit to the doctor.

Telemedicine can include a virtual office visit over the phone or by computer video conferencing. It can involve a specialist reading and interpreting a diagnostic evaluation, such as an MRI, a heart monitor, electrical brain monitoring, ultrasound or another type of evaluation.

Sometimes, your health insurance policy might require you to use a telemedicine consultation in some situations.

2. Convenience

Often, individuals who have moved to a new town and did not have time to arrange for a new primary care physician or who regularly travel for work use telemedicine. Telemedicine can be one way to get the health care you need when you are in a different location than your health care provider- for example, when you are on vacation.

In these situations, non-urgent office visits for prescription refills, stomachaches, and allergy flare-ups can be accomplished with telemedicine.

3. Emergency care

Sometimes a telemedicine consultation is part of complicated, specialized emergency care. If you go to the emergency room for a stroke in a geographic region without access to a nearby neurologist, the emergency staff and physicians might obtain a neurological consultation through telemedicine.

This is often necessary for making complex decisions- such as whether or not to use potent blood thinners such as TPA administration or other high-risk interventional therapy. In some hospitals, there may not be a specialized radiologist on staff who can read emergency brain scans for evaluation of very early strokes, and thus a radiologist located somewhere else might read an emergency imaging study through the use of telemedicine. 

4. Payment

You might be able to sign up to opt-in to telemedicine services through your health insurance. Some insurance companies pay for telemedicine services for all enrolled members, some require an additional fee, and some do not participate in telemedicine at all. You can often sign up and pay a reasonable fee to a telemedicine service provider if it is not covered by your insurance.

5.  911

Telemedicine does not replace a 911 call. Telemedicine is a non-emergency service unless a doctor who is actually seeing you in person requests additional on-the-spot help from another physician through telemedicine.

You should never call for a telemedicine consultation instead of going to the emergency room or instead of calling 911.

6. You might love it or hate it.

Telemedicine is growing, but it is not going to replace face-to-face doctor visits. Many patients want to try it out and some will decide that it just isn't the right fit. You do not need to fear the end of real hands-on medical care.

7. Your doctor might already be a telemedicine provider.

Many doctors who provide telemedicine service also work in the office or hospital and provide telemedicine visits and consultations too. If you want to find out if your doctor can also be your telemedicine provider, ask the office staff. This may make many aspects of your health care easier and more convenient for you.

8. Telemedicine is relatively new.

Health insurance policies regarding payment, contracts, services, and documentation are changing rapidly. Your insurance might contract with a particular telemedicine company one year, and another the next year. The copays and services covered may change from time to time. Don't expect stability or consistency.

9. Telemedicine physicians must be licensed in your state.

Generally, you will be provided with your doctor's name. Telemedicine companies screen physicians stringently and most require patient care experience prior to hiring a doctor. You will be provided with your physician's name when you receive a consultation, and your physician will be provided with your medical history.

Overall, telemedicine is a new and emerging method of providing healthcare services that will not replace the standard face-to-face doctors visit. In some situations, telemedicine is the only way for patients to receive highly specialized care that is not available nearby. When it comes to calling for a telemedicine visit yourself- you usually have the option to decide if it is right for you or not.

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