Thanks to the pandemic, the world of medicine has undergone substantial changes. In the past, telehealth was a relatively new and novel component of the medical field that was not widely utilized. However, when people were no longer able to schedule in-person visits as easily due to the risks associated with COVID-19, telehealth became an essential service.
For many people, virtual doctor visits are now the norm and are used as much as possible, even as the world has begun to recover from the pandemic. These virtual visits offer several key benefits, including convenience, time saved, less money spent on gas, and the ability to receive medical services from any location that has an internet connection.
About Telehealth Visits
Telehealth visits are different from regular doctor’s visits in that you will not have to travel to a clinic, hospital, or office at the time of the appointment. Instead, you will use video chatting software to connect with your healthcare provider over the internet. You will be able to see each other face-to-face and have a conversation similar to what would happen in a doctor’s office. However, because you are not there in person, your online doctor will not be able to take your vitals or perform a full physical examination. You can still ask your provider questions and/or show your provider parts of your body that are bothering you, as long as they can be seen easily with the camera.
When to Schedule a Virtual Visit
Although virtual visits are used more frequently in today’s world, they still are not appropriate for every type of need. Below are some examples of situations in which it makes more sense to skip an in-person doctor visit and book an appointment with an online doctor instead.
1. When you need an examination of an area that is easy to see.
Virtual doctor visits allow you and the doctor to see each other face-to-face, but it may still be difficult to show the doctor certain parts of your body and/or explain certain issues. For example, if you have a lump the doctor needs to feel or you have an issue located in an area that cannot be examined virtually, you may need an in-person visit. On the other hand, if you have an issue in an area that is easy to view during a virtual visit, such as your eyes or skin, making an appointment with an online doctor is recommended.
2. When you need to follow up with your doctor after an in-person visit.
In cases where you have already seen your doctor for an in-person visit and simply need to follow up on the same issue, there is usually no need for another in-person appointment. Instead, you can save time and make the whole experience more convenient by booking a virtual appointment. During this appointment, you will be able to discuss the effectiveness of any treatment you received and/or the status of the original issue.
3. When you have an appointment for counseling or another mental health service.
Counseling and other mental health services can be provided effectively using virtual technologies, such as video chat. These services do not usually involve a physical examination, so there is no need to be present in person. The entire session can be conducted via video chat, making it easier and more convenient for both the patient and the provider. In fact, some patients feel more comfortable receiving these types of services over video chat in the comfort of their own home, as opposed to traveling to an in-person office or clinic.
4. When all you need is a prescription refill.
Some prescriptions cannot be refilled without a doctor’s visit. However, in many cases, you won’t need to undergo a physical examination or any other in-person testing before the prescription can be filled. Instead, you will simply need to have a conversation with the doctor. If the purpose of your visit is only to request a refill of an existing prescription, you can usually schedule an online visit instead of an in-person appointment.
5. When your appointment is related to monitoring for a chronic condition.
Patients who have certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, must keep regular appointments with a physician to monitor the status of the condition. The purpose of these appointments is to assess the way the condition has been progressing, evaluate the effectiveness of any treatment the patient is receiving, and determine whether additional testing or treatment is necessary. All of these tasks can be accomplished during a virtual visit, making an online doctor visit the most appropriate choice for most patients in this situation.
Most patients will be able to decide whether a virtual visit will adequately meet their needs when it is time to see the doctor. In some cases, however, it may be more difficult to determine whether you need to see a doctor in person or whether a virtual visit will be enough. If you aren’t sure what you should do, ask your doctor which type of appointment would be most appropriate in your unique situation.