Finding a New Routine with In-Person Care and Telemedicine
Last updated: February 2021
As technology has become a bigger part of our daily lives, its uses in healthcare have also grown. Thanks to improvements in technology, there are many options for accessing healthcare using telemedicine.
However, some visits still may be better or required to be in-person. There are some factors that can make deciding between in-person and virtual visits easier.
Impact of COVID-19
Telemedicine existed before COVID-19. However, the pandemic forced many patients and doctors to start using it almost overnight. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) found that at the start of the pandemic, there were 120 times more virtual appointments than normal. Even though many restrictions have since been lifted, there are still increased options for telemedicine available.1
Some people may prefer telemedicine to an in-person visit because of safety concerns from COVID-19. However, there are some visits that cannot be held virtually. If you attend an in-person visit, following the standard COVID-19 safety measures can reduce the risk. Try to stay 6 feet apart from others, wear a mask, wait in your car if you can, and avoid touching your face.2
Is telemedicine right for you?
There are certain factors that can help you decide if telemedicine is a good replacement for an in-person visit. First, it is important to check with your doctor to ensure your visit can be held virtually. Many appointments can be held virtually, and some physical exams can even be performed over video chat.3
However, some appointments still need to be in-person. This may include lab work, imaging tests, and hands-on physical exams. Before a visit, call your doctor’s office and ask about your options.3
You may want to confirm that your insurance will cover the cost of telemedicine. Insurance policies on telemedicine can be different depending on your insurance company and where you live. Different states have different laws about coverage for telemedicine. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, some insurance companies have started covering more virtual visits.4
Some things that may impact your virtual visit’s coverage may include:5
- The technology used during the telemedicine visit
- If this is your first visit with a certain doctor
- If you live in a remote area where in-person visits can be difficult
The coverage of telemedicine can be complex. It may be a good idea to contact your insurance company before a virtual visit. By contacting your insurance company, you can get information on their telemedicine policies. This can help you plan your appointments in the future.5
Things to consider
Deciding between an in-person or virtual visit can be difficult. Telemedicine does offer the benefit of being a more convenient option for many people. You may be able to get an appointment sooner, and you can avoid the travel and waiting room time of an in-person visit. This could make it easier to fit in appointments or meet a specialist who may not be in your area.5
Before a visit, it may be helpful to address any technology concerns. Most telemedicine visits are done via video chat using a smartphone, tablet, or computer. If you do not have access to these devices, you may be able to use a telephone. This could impact the services the doctor can provide. For example, your doctor cannot view a rash without video.4
Someone from the doctor’s office should contact you and teach you how to use the telemedicine service. If you do not feel comfortable with technology or do not have access to a device with video, telemedicine may not be the best option to replace in-person visits.4
Navigating telemedicine and in-person options can be daunting with so many aspects to consider. Connecting with your doctor before a visit can help address any issues that may come up. They will tell you if your visit can be held virtually and help you with technology questions. Your doctor will understand your situation and should be able to make the best recommendation for your needs.
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