The onset of the COVID crisis pushed telemedicine to the forefront of healthcare delivery. What was waiting in the wings before is now center stage. And despite people returning to office visits, some measure of telemedicine seems destined to persist.
If you had to choose one telemedicine solution to use, what would it be? There are plenty of options on the table depending on how comprehensive you want your healthcare to be. Below are just a few examples. Each one has its pros and cons.
In its most basic form, telemedicine can be practiced through videoconferencing. In a videoconferencing scenario, patients meet with their healthcare providers via video. Providers ask questions, offer diagnosis, and may even write prescriptions. Patients are free to ask questions and describe any symptoms or ailments they may be experiencing.
The downside of this basic solution is a lack of diagnostic testing. Furthermore, there is something to be said about interacting with patients face-to-face. Some doctors do not think that videoconferencing is an adequate substitute for in-person visits.
The Patient Portal
Your preferred mode of telemedicine may have nothing to do with direct care. Instead, it might be a telehealth portal that lets you make appointments, view your billing statements, etc. online. You still prefer to see your doctor or nurse practitioner in person. For everything else, you use the portal.
Retail Medical Kiosk
Before there was videoconferencing, consumers used to access telemedicine by way of retail medical kiosks. Many of those kiosks still exist. In the early days, you could sit down at a kiosk and have your blood pressure taken. You could also have your heart rate monitored.
CSI Health is a Texas company that provides medical kiosks to retail environments. They say that today’s kiosks go above and beyond measuring blood pressure and heart rate. The most advanced kiosks have built-in diagnostic tools that make it possible for healthcare providers to offer complete primary care from remote locations.
Virtual Health Clinics
The next step up from the medical kiosk is the virtual health clinic. In a virtual clinic setting, you have a dedicated space featuring multiple kiosks and a small staff of registered nurses. Patients come in for primary care. The nurses use on-board diagnostic tools to complete an initial consultation. Meanwhile, data is sent to a doctor’s office in preparation for a video consultation.
On-Demand Healthcare App
One of the hottest things in telemedicine right now is the on-demand healthcare app. This is a mobile app that gives consumers immediate access to primary care, on demand. When a patient feels they need to consult with a physician, PA, or NP, it is a simple matter of bringing up the app, signing in, and choosing an available clinician.
On-demand apps are the mobile equivalent of videoconferencing. They offer little more than video consultations with healthcare professionals. But for a quick diagnosis of a common cold or something equally innocuous, healthcare via mobile app is a lot more convenient than sitting your GP’s office for an hour or more.
No telemedicine solution is perfect. Furthermore, telemedicine is incapable of completely replacing the in-office model. There are some times when clinicians have to be present with their patients. But there are also times when telemedicine is a reasonable alternative to more traditional means.
If you are new to the whole telemedicine thing, get used to it. It is here to stay. Chances are that you will use at least one telemedicine option in the future. If you are young enough, you may eventually use them all.