Your health insurance may cover (and even promote) electronic doctor visits. And many Americans are opting to take advantage, whether it’s via Skype or Facetime, or by logging in to an online portal provided by their health insurers.
Telemedicine (also called “e-medicine”) is a mobile application allowing a physician to provide medical treatment remotely by using video chat. If you have a rash or a cut, for example, you can send photos, describe your symptoms, and often receive a diagnosis and a prescription – all from your home or office.
It’s becoming increasingly popular: a survey conducted by global tech company Cisco Systems showed that almost three-quarters of patients are open to visiting their doctors from the comfort of home.
Why? E-visits are simply more convenient for everyone: no long trips to see your doctors, or exposure to other sick patients in their waiting rooms. Plus your copay may be waived by your insurer if you visit your doctor electronically.
E-medicine is not new. For more than 40 years, it’s provided patients with opportunities for care that might otherwise be unavailable; medical practitioners have successfully used e-medicine for decades to treat individuals in remote areas who have limited access to hospitals and doctors. The picture changed, however, when investors and researchers began to step up the search for easier, better, cheaper ways to deliver telemedicine services. Now it’s readily accessible to almost everyone.
There are some downsides to telemedicine; it’s not for those who need one-on-one relationships with their physicians. But for common symptoms and ailments, like a cold or the flu, an e-visit may be the answer.
The Medicare website includes good information on e-medicine, and if you are privately insured, your health care provider often offers e-medicine access. Check with your insurance carrier to determine in-network e-medicine providers and how your copay may apply, and visit your health insurance agent to help identify your options.