Technology has always been an important facet of medicine. It has improved the efficiency of the health care industry, created lifesaving methods of treatment, and helped improve the overall health of large populations. But what many people never would have guessed is that it’s now possible to use technology to replace doctor visits in your home, office, or anywhere in the world with your smartphone and internet connection.
The Growth of Telehealth
Image via Flickr by jeffeaton.
As technology has changed and expanded, many aspects of health care have changed along with it, and telehealth has emerged as an important tool. Doctors use it to communicate with each other, which is of particular importance for specialists, and primary care physicians can communicate with home-health caretakers.
It’s not just doctors communicating with each other, however. Telehealth has grown and adapted so that doctors use it to treat patients. Doctors can talk with patients through video chat or consult with them through other remote means to help with diagnosis and treatment. In many cases, doctor visits through smartphones can replace in-person visits.
App-Based Doctor Visits
A variety of apps allow patients to schedule doctor appointments and to attend those visits with the help of an app and the camera of their smartphone. With a smartphone like the Galaxy S6, it’s large HD display and wide-angle 5MP front camera, it’s easy to use apps like HealthTap. This app stems from a popular question and answer website, but now, instead of asking a question through the site, users can video chat with doctors to help diagnose and learn about treatment options for a variety of illnesses. HealthTap Prime costs $39 per month (plus $10 per month for each additional family member) and allows you quick, unlimited access to a large network of doctors.
Doctor on Demand, which was created by the television host Dr. Phil and his son, is a similar app that allows you to video chat with physicians who will diagnose your concerns and write prescriptions if necessary. You can schedule an appointment with an urgent care physician, a psychologist, or even a lactation specialist for a relatively low cost per appointment. If you’re suffering from a minor ailment such as a skin rash, pink eye, diarrhea, or the flu, a doctor can diagnose the problem and prescribe medication to treat your symptoms.
Scheduling a House Call
If you’re not completely comfortable video chatting with a doctor, your smartphone can still help you schedule a visit, even to your home. Pager allows you to book house calls. This app is free to download, and you only pay once you’ve booked an appointment. A doctor will come to your home, hotel room, or office for $199 during the week and $299 on the weekends.
Some doctors discourage online or app-based visits because they feel that a physical exam is necessary to accurately diagnose a patient’s condition. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever use online services, but it may not be wise to cut in-person doctor visits entirely. Telehealth shouldn’t take the place of your primary care physician, specialists, or an emergency room. Instead, it should be used in situations in which, for example, you would otherwise go to an urgent care or minute clinic.
To properly use telehealth or video-based appointments, make sure your concern is not life-threatening or an emergency. If you are concerned about cancer or heart issues, for example, go see a specialist, call an ambulance, or head to an emergency room. Even though video chatting with a doctor is convenient, if you need immediate help, you should see a doctor in person. Discuss any ongoing concerns with your primary caregiver to see whether and when online doctor visits are appropriate for you and your family.
If you want a more convenient way to get routine or minor medical care, research and download apps that can help you use telehealth. Although it’s not the right choice for everyone in every situation, telehealth can make your life easier when you’re facing certain medical concerns.