Is There a Virtual Doctor in the House?

Back in the 1940s, 40% of physician visits were house calls. This trend declined over the next two decades, but now it’s resurfacing in a whole new way. Your doctor can now visit you at home – virtually.

Using your smartphone, tablet, or any similar electronic device that has a camera, you can visit a doctor without leaving home. This method, called telemedicine, is exploding in the United States. According to the American Telemedicine Association, at least 200 telemedicine networks now serve 3,500 sites.

Of course, telemedicine is not appropriate for complaints such as wounds, chest pains, or broken bones. However, virtual visits offer many advantages for an initial visit if you have a minor, temporary health issue, such as cold or flu, sore throat, headache, back pain, diarrhea or vomiting, rash, or pink eye.

What are the advantages of telemedicine? Convenience is major, especially if you live in a rural area or if leaving home is difficult. In addition, you save driving time, and you avoid sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, exposed to other patients’ illnesses.

Further, your doctor can easily monitor any chronic condition you have, such as high blood pressure, and you can often get a second opinion from an expert no matter where that health care professional lives.

Finally, telemedicine saves money. According to Berkeley Wellness at the University of California, doctors often charge less than half the cost of an office visit for a telemedicine consultation.

If you think telemedicine might work for you, contact your health insurer to see whether they offer this technology.