Insurers Offer Coverage for Online Doctor Visits
There is good news for the besieged medical system in the US in the form of online doctor visits. The statistics published by the Center for Disease Control announced a 20% increase in doctor visits in the last 5 years to 1.2 billion. With a 7% drop in the number of doctors coming out of primary care residency programs since 1995, the critical shortage of access to health services will worsen unless drastic change occurs. Telemedicine, providing access to doctors by phone or the Internet, promises to remedy some of the problems facing the health care industry.
Decrease Office and Emergency Room Visits
For patients with minor illnesses, such as the common cold, or for those just in the need for medical advice, making an appointment for a visit to their doctor, or going to the local emergency room is an inefficient use of time, money, and medical services. Those with ongoing illnesses, such as diabetes who need routine follow-up care, will often just sit with their doctor and discuss their course of treatment and their response to it. Sufficient diagnostic information can be obtained by a doctor by phone or email to successfully treat minor illness without requiring an office visit. These two patient populations: those with minor illness and ones seeking routine follow-up care make ideal candidates for telemedicine. The price for online visits is generally the same as for a visit to the office.
Health Insurance Coverage for Online Doctor Visits
Two huge insurers, Aetna and Cigna are now offering coverage for some forms of telemedicine. This in itself is a big deal, but it also represents the stimulus for other insurers to follow through with their own coverage. This is a huge boost to consumer freedom. Now, a patient can access medical services other than those few within driving distance. While some providers foresee risks associated with offering medical advice without the physical patient being present, the majority of doctors and analysts foresee a new era empowering the medical system with twenty-first century technology.
Technology to Meet the Need
Technology is creating devices and services that add to online assessment, diagnosis, and medical and financial record-keeping. With home blood pressure and blood sugar monitoring recognized as proven entities, digital cameras permitting more acute video consulting, accessible online records, appointment making, and online prescription refills, telemedicine stands at the doorstep of a new era in health care delivery. Analysts predict that patients will one day be able to purchase a module to plug into their computers containing sensors to gather even more diagnostic information.
Accessing Health Care Providers Online
A typical patient with a sore throat can go directly to their doctor’s web site or to one of the Internet companies that handle such services, for example, MYDOCOnline or McKesson Health Solutions. Not intended for medical emergencies and ranging in cost from $25.00 to $125.00, the MD contacts his patient within one day. Doctors appreciate the ability to be compensated by insurance for these online patient visits.The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), recommends that even now patients should avail themselves the opportunity to use the telephone or computer when seeking medical services since this results in improved health care by offering more freedom and options.