Telemedicine for Primary Care
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine connects patients to their healthcare providers remotely via video chat, messaging, and email. Although telemedicine was originally intended to allow physicians to connect with patients located in remote areas that are significant distances from medical facilities, the developments in communication technology in the past two decades have made telemedicine affordable and practical, even for urban populations.
How Does Telemedicine for Primary Care Work?
Patients who are frustrated by inconvenient office hours or long wait times can connect with their health care provider from anywhere, anytime via smartphone or tablet. They can choose to chat from the comfort of their own home, or even from a park on a lunch break. When patients are able to schedule appointments with the touch of a button and answer video calls from anywhere rather than spending the afternoon at a clinic, they are more likely to schedule necessary appointments and, more importantly, keep those appointments.
Relating to primary care, telemedicine is ideal for follow-up appointments in between regular, routine wellness exams. During a follow-up video appointment, a health care provider can share the results from routine blood work and screenings, and advise the patient on lifestyle changes that will support optimal health.
Some examples of common screenings that can be discussed via online doctor appointments include:
● Cholesterol panels
● Blood glucose levels
● Blood lipid levels
● Liver function tests
● Mammogram results
● Colonoscopy results
● STD testing
● PAP smear results
Telemedicine also works especially well for patients who have chronic illnesses. These patients often must visit their primary care physician multiple times each year instead of only having one yearly exam. They usually have complicated and regimented treatment plans that must be continually monitored and modified by their primary care physician as well as specialists.
For these patients, their primary doctor online chat can consist of medication adjustments, monitoring of side effects, pain management, and discussion of lab and imaging results.
A few of the most common chronic illnesses that can be safely monitored via telemedicine include:
● Renal disease
● Coronary artery disease
● Heart disease or disorders
● Neurodegenerative disease
● Certain genetic disorders
In addition to connecting patients with their primary care physicians, telemedicine can increase patient access to registered dieticians, wellness coaches, and psychiatric care, while also increasing rates of patient adherence to recommendations of these providers. For busy patients, those who have limited mobility, and the chronically ill, telemedicine might be the only opportunity they have to initiate and maintain contact with these key services.
Ease of use and reduced time investment are both factors in the increasing popularity of telemedicine for primary care. Additionally, because the telemedicine process reduces the cost of overhead and administration, addresses the issue of access, and increases quality of care, it is becoming progressively popular with providers everywhere. Telemedicine for primary care is likely to continue to grow steadily, ultimately becoming the preferred method of treatment for many patients in the coming years.