Online medical consultations are spreading fast, delivering effective health care with comparable standard care outcomes and a high level of patient satisfaction. According to a study published in Health Affairs, 98 percent of those surveyed said they would recommend online doctor services to others. Also known as virtual visits, telemedicine, telehealth, and remote health care, online medical consults are replacing office visits, trips to the ER, urgent care services, and retail clinics.
Why the recent rise in online medical consults and telehealth? For patients, the answers include: greater convenience; health care only a click away; savings in travel and wait times; financial savings; no hassle of scheduling an appointment with a doctor; opportunity to take more responsibility for their own health; one-on-one consultation with a range of health-care professionals and specialists; access to health services otherwise unavailable; access to off-hours medical care; physician care while traveling, vacationing, or away from home; access to an accurate diagnosis, personalized treatment plan, and prescriptions online.
For health-care professionals, benefits of hosting online consultation services include: reduced travel time; ability to extend services to existing patients while reaching new patients; opportunity to offer a mixed office model; ability to see patients anywhere at any time; freer schedule as e-consults average one-third of the time of in-person visits; opportunity to increase income and profits; support from health insurers, including Medicare and Medicaid, who have begun to provide coverage for patients receiving virtual care; good treatment outcomes; more affordable and convenient health-care experience for patients.
Augmenting the web-based patient-clinician landscape are new technological tools such as patient interview software, medical history software, and more. It is important to note that in many states, health-care professionals are required to be in the same state as the patient or at minimum be licensed in that state. To issue prescriptions, some states mandate an existing patient-clinician relationship or an in-person visit.
So how do online medical consultations work? Depending on the facility or system, some of the steps include:
* Logging in from home, the office, or other setting
* Creating a secure account with log-in info
* Completing an automated interview regarding symptoms, medical history, medications, allergies
* Consultation via webcam
* Videoconferencing consultation
* Text-based communications
* Secure messaging to send personalized treatment plans
* Electronic prescriptions sent to a pharmacy specified by the patient
With its already proven benefits, the burgeoning paradigm of telehealth is here to stay. Not only are online medical consults changing the way in-patients and physicians communicate across a range of practice settings, but they are becoming an indispensable and valuable component of the future of health care.