You may not have heard of it, although you may already be actively using telemedicine. The term describes a new phenomenon in the field of health care that’s currently making waves across America; it involves communicating with your doctor or health care professional via digital technology, such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, and numerous apps which offer face-to-face video such as Skype. In today’s instantaneous world, every kind of service is going on-demand. It’s undoubtedly the way of the future; we’ve already seen Netflix dominate traditional television (and even cinema to a degree), while WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have wiped the floor with standard text messages. Although it’s far more crucial than these two examples, why should health care be any different?

Telemedicine brings the power of on-demand health care to the widespread public. It wasn’t always this way, however. Originally, the program was initiated to help remote patients who could not easily see a doctor, and consultations were conducted by telephone. It started in the 1960s, and remained this way for many decades following, until the burst of digital technology revived the term. As we move through 2018, telemedicine is reshaping the face of health care as we know it, and all signs point to it continuing the trend in the years to come. The great thing about using telemedicine is that it’s separate to digital technology, but evolves along with it. Our society is only going to become further reliant on this technology, and telemedicine can adapt to fit the changing form of our world.

Divan Medical - smartphone

If you have a smartphone or other digital device, using telemedicine has never been easier.

In many ways, it’s already crucial to some patients’ wellbeing. Although the main purpose of using telemedicine is to link patients with their doctor, it has many other uses too. Medical staff are able to better monitor patients by having them upload statistics over the internet, giving staff a more realistic appraisal than they’d get via 20 minutes in a doctor’s office. Patients are also able to utilize sites like Moosh to avail of progressive treatments like emotional support animals, which tend to patients with mental disorders, giving them comfort and assurance through the constant presence of an animal. But largely, for most people, the exciting part about using telemedicine is that they’ll be able to visit their doctor online.

However, with that freedom comes a whole load of questions. For starters, will the doctors be as thorough via telecommunications as they would during a physical visit? And also, what kind of access will a patient have to their doctor if they’re using telemedicine? With regard the former question, studies show that there is no marked difference for most common illnesses when you visit your doctor in-person or online. If your doctor is able to see you via an app like Skype, he or she will be able to get a decent appraisal of your physical condition. On the other hand, if you’re confident in describing your symptoms to your doctor without visiting them in-person, then that’s another option. Alternatively, your doctor can keep track of you via an online profile, and you can upload new symptoms or changes in previous ones there; many telemedicine apps provide this service.

Telemedicine is giving people easier and more flexible access to their doctors.

In regard to what kind of access a patient has to their doctor via telemedicine, the answer is more or less unlimited. Previously, scheduling a doctor’s visit took a lot of hard work, and has to be made days or (best-case scenario) hours in advance. Usually, a clinical visit takes up at least half of a patient’s day, and possibly more if they live far away from the surgery. You could say that access to a doctor was limited before telemedicine fully arrived. The great thing about using telemedicine is that you’re able to communicate with a doctor outside of office hours – pretty much any time you wish to see one. There are numerous apps that provide a constant hotline to a whole range of medical professionals; if you’re worried about a development in your condition, or just want to run a symptom past a specialist in the area, all it takes is jumping online to avail of professional advice. Ultimately, the access you have to quality medical care via telemedicine is unprecedented; and as everyone knows, time can be of the essence when dealing with certain illnesses.

You might worry that this instantaneous access to doctors will cost more money than an in-person visit. In fact, the opposite is true. As well as saving you (and your doctor) time, you will also save money. A recent study of a telemedicine platform showed that using telemedicine saves patients in the region of $88 per visit, not to mention the savings on travel and parking. Taken together, it’s obvious that telemedicine represents a major shift in the health care industry, and something that will continue to progress in the coming years. Going online and on-demand has helped so many industries achieve great things, leading to a happier client base and sustained growth. The health care system, often criticized for its failure to meet burgeoning demand, is no different, and taking a giant leap into the online, on-demand world represents a fantastic opportunity for patients and staff alike.