Technological advancements have greatly contributed to furthering medical care for patients around the United States and one of the ways medicine is progressing is by making doctors more accessible to patients via the internet. It's called telemedicine and it has a lot of potential to revolutionize health care in the country if a few concerns are addressed.
Telemedicine follows a simple premise: patients interested in consultations can get some one-on-one time with a doctor by talking to them online. Skype, FaceTime and other chat or messaging services can be used, substituting time on the internet for time spent in a waiting room.
It's growing in popularity because it is convenient. Doctors can see as many patients as they can and patients need not leave the comfort of their homes to seek a medical consult. Telemedicine is also more affordable, costing as little as $40 for a consultation, which is drastically less than what a trip to the emergency room or doctor's office would cost.
Washington lately gave the industry a boost when Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation in April requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for telemedicine services as well if those services are already being covered if availed of in person. This ensures reimbursement for telemedicine services but not urgent care availed of outside a medical facility, however.
Many health insurance providers are actually in favor of telemedicine, even if it is likelier to increase reimbursements because it is still generally less expensive than an emergency room visit.
Now if only more states could realize that telemedicine is a reimbursable service. Washington is just the 24th state to sign into law a reimbursement policy for telemedicine.
Unfortunately, regulators are actually considering moving against telemedicine, taking action before it becomes the norm to prevent the high risk that outweighs the advantages offered by the service. This risk has to do with not all diseases and conditions being easily diagnosed over the internet, which increases the likelihood of wrong diagnosis. Sometimes, doctors still have to lay hands on patients to more accurately determine what ails them.
Telemedicine isn't aiming to replace traditional medical practices anyway. Instead, it wants to complement it, covering bases that the usual practices cannot address at the moment. As for the risk highlighted, telemedicine service providers make it clear to patients that it is not meant for medical emergencies, recommending visiting the emergency room or calling 911 when difficulty breathing, chest pains and other possibly life-threatening symptoms are experienced.
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