Many patients have never used telemedicine before. Here’s how to help them out.
Peter Alperin, MD.
It’s 2020 and doctors are doing house calls again. No, we didn’t step back in time; instead, we’ve moved forward. Rather than a knocking on patient’s home with a stethoscope and wooden tongue depressor in tow, today’s house calls require no face-to-face appointments, only a smartphone with an internet connection. Telemedicine has arrived.
Telemedicine has fast become an important part of our new-normal, owing to its convenience, as well as the growing need to provide continuity of care to patients with chronic conditions in the face of a global pandemic.Moving forward, there will be a significant number of patients where it will not make sense to have them physically come into a doctor’s office when they can get the same level of care by simply doing a video visit with their physician. This, in part, accounts for the meteoric rise of telehealth.
Moreover, public health researchers have long understood that healthcare outcomes are different across various ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Now, many in the medical community are starting to realize that the broad adoption of telemedicine across the system could be a great “equalizer.” This is particularly true for communities that have historically struggled to access care – remote rural or underserved urban communities. There’s great hope that telemedicine could be one development that helps bridge a persistent divide in outcomes, so long as accessing it is easy and inexpensive for patients.
Despite the many positives, most patients have yet to have their first telemedicine visit. And it’s understandable that some may view telemedicine as a challenge, due to either their lack of confidence with technology or not feeling that they have the resources to connect with their doctor remotely. These concerns are valid but the telemedicine options available today make it a simple and reliable option for the broadest possible number of patients.
As a practicing internist, I’ve conducted many telehealth visits, so I’ve seen the potential for telemedicine directly in my own medical practice. I’ve also had the privilege of helping patients with the basics of getting started with their first telehealth appointment.
Here are five things you can tell your patients to do to help them prepare for their first virtual visit:
House calls are back and are here to stay – but they aren’t the kind our grandparents had. Research shows telemedicine offers a wide range of efficiency and accessibility benefits for both patients and physicians. The first visit can seem daunting for patients, but by offering this advice and treating the virtual visit as an extension of in-person care, it can be an easy and efficient way to conduct an appointment.
Peter Alperin, MD, is a practicing internist and vice president at Doximity.