The benefits of a virtual doctor's appointment

To keep our patients safe and to practice social distancing guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, University Health is offering “telemedicine” or virtual visits with doctors by video or phone. Telemedicine provides an effective way of to communicate with your doctor about health issues that are important to you.

Telemedicine and telehealth services prove valuable to medical care

You've likely heard of “telehealth” or “telemedicine" by now and may have even have experienced a doctor's visit over the phone or through video conferencing. Telehealth refers to the broad range of health and technology services that can be used for patient care, while telemedicine refers to medical appointments – remote clinical services. But it's all about getting your medical needs met and many people use the words interchangeably.

Telemedicine can be used for many services including:
  • Follow up appointments
  • Management of chronic conditions
  • Medication management
  • Consultation with medical specialists

Benefits of telemedicine appointments

Before the pandemic, some doctors were already using virtual visits to see their patients. Virtual visits are especially helpful to patients who can't easily access medical care, such as those who live in remote geographical areas. They’re also valuable to  those who live in medically underserved communities where medical services are greatly needed.

Virtual visits provide a number of benefits, including:

  • Telemedicine reduces healthcare costs by increasing the efficiency of care delivery and reducing the costs of transporting patients between medical care facilities.
  • Virtual visits can enhance the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors can continue to see their patients in-person, while also offering them the flexibility and convenience that comes with virtual appointments.
  • Virtual visits improve patient engagement in their healthcare. Virtual visits make it easier and more convenient for patients to actively engage with their doctor concerning their health.
  • Increased healthcare provider job satisfaction. Doctors can more easily meet with patients which can reduce their job stress and improve their work-life balance.

A recent study by the National Library of Medicine also shows that patients who used virtual appointments:

  • Had 38% fewer hospital admissions
  • Were 63% more likely to spend fewer days in the hospital
  • Showed more engagement in their healthcare

Telemedicine provides a convenient option for patients

In a recent survey, more than 42% of U.S. adults reported having used telemedicine since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. Of those who said they liked using telemedicine, 65% said it was more convenient than in-person visits, while 63% liked that they did not have to worry about being exposed to COVID-19.

Overall, 51% of those surveyed said they would continue to use telemedicine even after the pandemic ends.

While a lot of people may still prefer and need office visits, it seems that because of this pandemic, telemedicine may have become a permanent fixture in healthcare. Revenue from telemedicine visits is expected to grow from $628.3 million in 2019 to $2.40 billion by 2024.

Virtual doctor appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic

To prevent the spread of novel coronavirus and to protect those who are most vulnerable to the virus, many people are choosing to stay home. While these social distancing practices are needed, it makes it hard for patients to receive the medical care they need since many can’t make it to their doctor’s office. To combat this, many healthcare systems, including University Health, are changing a number of outpatient appointments to virtual care appointments.

Before you have your virtual visit, University Health will:

  • Assess if your condition is stable and then notify you that your appointment will be a virtual visit.
  • Ask you to provide an email address and device for the visit. If the patient doesn’t have these things, then a phone call will be set up.
  • If you do have an email and device, the virtual visit will be via Webex, which will allow you to see, hear and better interact with team members.
  • You can use your cell phone, laptop, desktop computer or your tablet for the Webex.

Instructions on how to set up your Webex

Make the most of your virtual care visit

To make sure you’re getting the right healthcare you need, you’ll want to be prepared for your virtual care visit. Here are a few things you can do to get the most out of your telemedicine appointment:

  • Make a list of concerns. Write down a list of your concerns or issues so you don’t forget to chat with your doctor about something important during the visit.
  • Keep track of any symptoms and when they started. Keep a record of any symptoms including when they occur, what triggers them, and what alleviates them.
  • Send photos of obvious symptoms. Send pictures of bites, rashes, moles and other issues that are causing visible symptoms to your doctor before the visit.

Additionally, make sure to:

  • Call from a quiet place without any distractions.
  • Be available at the appointment time to answer the call and avoid phone tag.
  • Have any required medical equipment handy such as a thermometer, bathroom scale, etc. in case your doctor requests additional information from you.

Know when to go to the hospital

If you fall, break a bone, have heart condition symptoms or a severe illnesses, it may be necessary for you to go to the hospital. If you’re experiencing a medical emergency, don’t hesitate to come to the emergency room at University Hospital or call your doctor.

Please be aware, that although virtual visits support your healthcare, some visits need to be in person. This includes preventative visits such as Pap smears and colonoscopies, etc. If you need to schedule a visit with your doctor that can’t be done virtually, reach out to your healthcare provider to find out what their procedures are for seeing patients during the pandemic.

We are dedicated to providing the best, most comprehensive care for patients in South Texas and beyond. For more information about the novel coronavirus, review the latest COVID-19 Updates From University Health.

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