Telehealth has come a long way in recent years. This aspect of healthcare was accelerated during the early stages of COVID-19. It enabled doctors to communicate with their patients without putting anyone at risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
The benefits of online healthcare are even more widespread today. Therapy sessions can be held completely online. Homebound patients have greater access to healthcare now. Since telehealth is only getting better, many are now asking if it spells the end of in-person doctor’s visits.
While trends are shifting toward a greater use of telehealth, there are still plenty of reasons why people visit the doctor’s office. Following are a few of them, along with some of the ways telehealth is enhancing healthcare as we know it:
1. Lack of Equipment
There are a lot of things you can do from home now thanks to telehealth. You can use video calls to check in with your doctor. You can order and refill prescriptions from your cell phone. You can even administer a birth control shot in the comfort of your own home. However, there will still be various pieces of equipment that you don’t have that may require a trip to the doctor’s office.
For example, you might not have a blood pressure gauge in your medicine cabinet. Without one, you won’t be able to report your vitals to your healthcare provider. Buying one is an option, but then you have to teach yourself to use it accurately.
Additionally, there are some aspects of healthcare that have to be performed in person. A doctor might need to listen to your lungs or inspect your ears. These tasks simply aren’t possible without an in-person consultation.
2. User Tech Complications
In addition to medical equipment, there’s a certain amount of personal technology required to make telehealth work. A reliable internet connection and a good camera are required to carry out an effective online appointment with your doctor. Most people have a high-quality smartphone these days, but that’s not always the case for every patient.
Patients also need to be able to use their technology well during a telehealth visit. Troubleshooting audio problems and positioning the camera to aid the doctor’s view are examples of responsibilities the patient has to take. Otherwise an online healthcare appointment won’t end up being very fruitful.
If most patients have the required tech, perhaps all they need is a small amount of training for online healthcare appointments. Providers can create short videos for new patients teaching them how to hold the camera and set up their audio. They can also teach patients how to share important documents online. This will make it so user complications and shortcomings don’t get in the way of virtual healthcare.
3. Emergency Situations
In the case of an emergency, it’s almost always better to see a health professional in person. Major injuries and illnesses will heal more easily when directly guided by an in-person doctor. Minor health concerns can often be resolved over a video call. But doctors will likely prefer a more hands-on approach for more threatening problems.
This isn’t to say that online healthcare won’t be valuable during an emergency. Speaking with your doctor during the start of an allergic reaction can help control it while en route to the hospital. This combination of virtual and in-person healthcare is more effective than just one of them on its own.
The emergency aspect of online healthcare may be just as beneficial to first responders. EMTs en route to an accident can guide someone on the scene through CPR to give the victim a chance of survival. Scary situations like that just can’t wait until the doctor’s office.
4. Insurance Coverage
Hopefully this will change soon, but insurance coverage for telehealth isn’t always a guarantee. Not all states have laws that require telehealth visits to be completely covered. This means that coverage in your state might be minimal at best.
This should change soon because quite frankly, online doctor’s appointments are often cheaper for the provider. Online appointments don’t require any building space and often take less time, freeing up the provider to see more patients.
If telehealth is more expensive than regular doctor’s visits, people will continue to opt for in-person visits. As online healthcare continues to improve and become more widespread, more people will start booking virtual appointments.
5. Comfort and Security
The last point that needs to be made is that many people simply aren’t comfortable with online healthcare yet. In addition to the healthcare received, there’s a sense of comfort and security that comes with being in a physical doctor’s office. Even if the attention is nearly identical, the mental and emotional aspects of healthcare are just as important to consider.
This may be nothing more than a placebo effect. However, the point of healthcare is to ultimately help a patient to feel better. If visiting a physical location helps with that, then it will continue to be a part of healthcare.
While online healthcare might not eliminate doctor’s visits entirely, it will change the healthcare field forever. Even the current hybrid approach many doctors are taking is a huge step toward offering more options to patients.