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The Doctor Is Online: How Efficient Is Consulting a Doctor Online?

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The Doctor Is Online

In this fast-paced world, personal life and work are either rushed or mixed up in a blur of activity. This modern life causes people to constantly move at an ever-increasing rate regardless of the stress they are feeling.online

Hard-pressed for time, most people want to get things done instantly. For this reason, telemedicine has become not only technically possible but also increasingly acceptable. 

Through online medical consultation, patients can quickly reach their healthcare providers without needing to visit their clinics. This setup is particularly beneficial for chronically ill patients or those who need a periodical consultation but are too busy to make a face-to-face medical appointment.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many research studies reported that the coronavirus outbreak causes psychiatric problems in people(1-2). As such, there had been a rise in the demand for doctors. However, it was difficult for people to visit hospitals because of the risk of COVID-19 infection.  

With telemedicine, patients who needed care for depression and anxiety could be assisted via the internet. Aside from general consultation, physicians also provided therapy for psychological stabilization online(3)

A 2013 study verified the positive effects of telemedicine in psychiatric consultation and treatment. According to their research, online treatment and psychiatric consultations for people across many age groups have the same effect as in-person care(4)

Research from the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated how mobile intervention could be an economical alternative for in-person weight loss sessions (5)

The study discussed how patients regularly updated their exercise habits and weight assessments using a mobile device. Based on this data, their healthcare providers gave them regular coaching over the phone that complements their weight loss program. 

Despite the growing number of online medical services, a few people are still skeptical of their effectiveness. However, a recent study reported by the journal Health Affairs showed that more and more patients are becoming comfortable with virtual doctor consultations(6)

According to the report, HealthPartners, an integrated healthcare organization in Minnesota, launched an online clinic in late 2010. The online clinic diagnosed and treated common ailments, such as flu and yeast infections. 

After more than 40,000 cases, the researchers reported an average of $88 lower cost per episode than the traditional clinic visit. They also cited strong indicators of clinical effectiveness. About 98% of patients approved of this setup(7)

The cost of medical care ranked among voters’ top concerns in the 2018 midterm election(8). The federal government estimated that healthcare expenditures reached $10,739 per capita in 2017. The costs will continue to increase by more than 5.5% annually over the next decade(9).  

In a statistical brief published by the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), Americans spent as much as $265 for an office-based physician visit in 2016 and about $296 in 2020 because of medical inflation(10)

Some people have tried to figure out their health condition at home. Others have also searched online to help them better understand their symptoms. 

A national survey performed by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that 35% of American adults go online to figure out what medical condition they might have(11)

Forty-six percent of the respondents thought they needed to consult a medical professional to confirm the information they found online. Meanwhile, 38% said they could take care of themselves at home. In comparison, 11% said they would do both or do either of the two options(12).

Watching videos and reading journal articles to manage your symptoms will not suffice. 

In addition, a simple search on Google can point you in the wrong direction and leave you fearing the worst. Instead of looking up your health issues on the internet, you can benefit from a telemedicine service instead. 

If your situation prevents you from scheduling a medical appointment, consulting doctors virtually can help you identify your symptoms more accurately. Telemedicine is also a very beneficial service for those who are fragile and cannot travel to the clinic from home easily.

There are no location boundaries for telemedicine. Unlike the traditional way, online medical consultation provides for a more convenient booking process. 

You can consult the physician of your choice regardless of your area. You also have unlimited access to a wide range of highly trained and experienced medical professionals without needing to travel. 

For future reference, your medical records are also stored online every time you make an appointment. You have access to primary care, investigation reports, and even medicines at your home. 

If your condition worsens and you get admitted to a hospital, your healthcare provider can liaise with the attending physician to make your treatment more effective. Taking a second medical opinion is also easy with an online consultation. 

For your convenience, you can freely request a clinician based on language, gender, and affiliation to a specific healthcare facility. 

Your virtual doctor is also able to prescribe your medication remotely. If your prescription is medically warranted, your online physician can prescribe a wide range of medications, such as antibiotics, that can fight infections and boost your immunity. 

Some people may find it uncomfortable to discuss personal medical symptoms and private health issues. Thus, many individuals may opt to avoid visiting their healthcare providers out of embarrassment.

Leaving a problem for too long without seeking medical assistance can be dangerous. When you use a telemedicine service, you can talk to a clinician from the comfort of your home.

You can enjoy anonymity when you communicate with a doctor online. If you feel relaxed, you can clearly state your concerns. As a result, your healthcare provider can easily give an accurate diagnosis based on your symptoms. 

Realizing that you have a health condition that requires medical attention can be both anxiety-provoking and stressful. Some individuals have busy schedules and never-ending-to-do-lists. Hence, visiting a healthcare provider can be challenging. 

Thanks to online medical consultations, getting diagnoses, prescriptions, and treatments for your ailments is possible. While it is understandable that in-person care is essential, there are some instances when a virtual doctor can be just as effective. 

With the potential to make healthcare less expensive and more accessible without compromising quality consultations, telemedicine services surely have a bright future. 

References

  1. Torales, J., O’Higgins, M., Castaldelli-Maia, J. M., & Ventriglio, A. (2020). The outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus and its impact on global mental health. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 66(4), 317–320. https://doi.org/10.1177/0020764020915212
  2. Nguyen, H. C., Nguyen, M. H., Do, B. N., Tran, C. Q., Nguyen, T., Pham, K. M., Pham, L. V., Tran, K. V., Duong, T. T., Tran, T. V., Duong, T. H., Nguyen, T. T., Nguyen, Q. H., Hoang, T. M., Nguyen, K. T., Pham, T., Yang, S. H., Chao, J. C., & Duong, T. V. (2020). People with Suspected COVID-19 Symptoms Were More Likely Depressed and Had Lower Health-Related Quality of Life: The Potential Benefit of Health Literacy. Journal of clinical medicine, 9(4), 965. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9040965
  3. Hilty, D. M., Ferrer, D. C., Parish, M. B., Johnston, B., Callahan, E. J., & Yellowlees, P. M. (2013). The effectiveness of telemental health: a 2013 review. Telemedicine journal and e-health : the official journal of the American Telemedicine Association, 19(6), 444–454. https://doi.org/10.1089/tmj.2013.0075
  4. Ibid.
  5. Spring, B., Duncan, J. M., Janke, E. A., Kozak, A. T., McFadden, H. G., DeMott, A., Pictor, A., Epstein, L. H., Siddique, J., Pellegrini, C. A., Buscemi, J., & Hedeker, D. (2013). Integrating technology into standard weight loss treatment: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA internal medicine, 173(2), 105–111. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1221
  6. Courneya, P.T., Palattao, K.J., & Gallagher, J.M. (2013). HealthPartners’ Online Clinic
    For Simple Conditions Delivers Savings Of $88 Per Episode And High Patient Approval. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/pdf/10.1377/hlthaff.2012.1157
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ashley Kirzinger and others, “KFF Election Tracking Poll: Health Care in the 2018
    Midterms” (Washington: Kaiser Family Foundation, 2018), available at https://www.kff.org/health-reform/poll-finding/kff-election-tracking-poll-health-care-in-the-2018-midterms/.
  9. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “NHE Fact Sheet,” available at https://www.cms.gov/research-statistics-data-and-systems/statistics-trends-and-reports/nationalhealthexpenddata/nhe-fact-sheet.html (last accessed June 2019).
  10.  Machlin, S.R., & Mitchell, E.M (2016). Expenses for Office-Based Physician Visits by Specialty and Insurance Type, 2016 (Statistical Brief #517). Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. https://meps.ahrq.gov/data_files/publications/st517/stat517.shtml
  11. Fox, S., & Duggan, M. (2013). Health Online 2013. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2013/01/15/health-online-2013/
  12. Ibid.

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