Before the advent of large hospital systems, insurance plans and office-based medicine, house calls made up 40% of doctor visits in the United States. That number steadily declined going from 5% in 1972 to <1% today. Unfortunately, moving the doctor into an office, the inefficiency that doctors experienced going from house to house is transferred to patients adding time to travel and waiting once we get there.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had the luxury of a modern-day house call? Luckily, we do, and telehealth gives us just that. Using technology that we are very familiar with, smartphones, email and text messaging, the 21st Century has ushered in a new era of virtual doctor’s visits allowing us to see a provider in the comforts of our own home.
Telehealth (or telemedicine if we are talking about providers seeing patients for clinical issues) started as a way for physicians to talk with patients or other physicians in remote areas who may not have had access to certain services.
In the 1950’s it showed up in medical literature when radiographic images were sent from one side of Pennsylvania to another via phone. Since then the technology has burgeoned, allowing patients to request and receive virtual visits using videoconferencing technology. Doctors are now able to speak with you, make a diagnosis or tell you if you need to be seen in person, write prescriptions and give work excuses all without you ever having to go in to an urgent care clinic, ER or your doctor’s office.
In the age of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing as well as decreasing the risk of spreading infection, the ability to stay at home when we need to talk to a doctor is paramount.
Telemedicine provides this and more due to its efficiency and affordability without the sacrifice of quality. In the 21st Century there are options that have not been previously available in the past and therefore telemedicine’s use is being positioned as becoming the new normal. The future of medicine is looking a bit more bright.
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