Technology has changed medicine—not just for health care professionals, who have access to better and smarter equipment, but also for individuals, who are left to navigate a newly-technological medical world. These changes may be helpful, especially in times where in-person medical care is risky, but they can also be unsettling. If you are having a hard time catching onto the new technology being integrated into healthcare, you certainly aren’t alone! In this article, we’ll break down online appointments, ordering medicines online, and more so you can feel in control of your own physical health again—even in the digital age.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth refers to the use of digital technology to remotely access healthcare services. The goal is to make healthcare services more accessible to more people and connect individuals to their own healthcare on an even greater level. When you get the hang of it, telehealth practices will actually give you even more control and independence from doctors.
Telehealth is a broad term that encompasses many practices. Right now, we’ll focus on the more common (and most important) ones.
Online Doctor’s Visits
One of the biggest shifts that the healthcare world has seen is the integration of virtual doctor’s visits. Instead of seeing the patient in person, doctors will set up a call with the patient over a platform like Skype or Zoom and assess them over call. This helps keep both patient and doctor safe from in-person contact and also saves the patient a physical visit to the doctor’s office, which in turn saves time.
Call your doctor’s office for specifics on how to set up a digital visit; each office has their own way of doing it. But before you log on for the appointment, consider these tips:
- Make sure your camera and mic are on. Technology can be a hurdle in telehealth of not used correctly. Make sure that your camera is on and you are in a well-lit area. Turn on your microphone and turn up your volume so that you will be able to hear what the doctor says.
- Write down what you want to discuss. Prepare for a virtual visit just like you would for a normal visit. Write down a few notes on what you want to tell the doctor to ensure that they can offer the best possible care.
- Check that your insurance covers the appointment. Most insurance companies cover telehealth visits, but because it’s a relatively new practice, it’s best to check to be safe.
Know that just because the appointment is online doesn’t mean that your doctor cares any less or isn’t listening to you. Your doctor is there for you and a doctor’s visit, whether in person or online, is your time to express to your doctor any concerns and ask questions. Don’t let the technology stress you out!
Ordering Prescriptions Online
Most prescriptions now can be filled online, which eliminates the step of taking your script to a local, in-person pharmacy. You can also order your medicine online through your usual pharmacy and pick it up in person; this just requires you to go to your pharmacy’s website and follow the instructions they present.
If, however, you choose to try an online pharmacy, there are several perks. First, online pharmacies typically have better pricing than in-person stores. If you don’t live near a pharmacy, online pharmacies will allow you to get the medicine delivered right to your door. It’s also incredibly convenient.
Before you make the switch to an online pharmacy, talk to your doctor and see which pharmacies they can recommend. Although many are reputable, the online pharmaceutical world also has some illegitimate sites like anything else on the Internet. Make sure to check that the company you use is safe before entering in any private information.
Apps for Healthy Living
Telehealth has expanded to include many apps for your phone that can be incredibly useful for you as a patient. Your doctors may recommend that you use some of the following apps, or you may just want to start using them yourself. Whatever the case, they are meant to help you manage your health conditions, not cause you stress.
If you don’t feel ready to try using apps for your health, that's okay! It's a big change. These apps can help you, but use them when you feel comfortable.
Diabetes Manager by WellDoc
One in ten Americans have diabetes, which means it’s a fairly common condition. If you are someone who suffers from diabetes, apps like WellDoc’s Diabetes Manager can help you manage your condition on your own by capturing blood-glucose information and transmitting it instantly. The app has coaches to assist patients in managing treatment and medicines.
MDLIVE is a telemedicine app that is meant to be there for you when your doctor isn’t available. IT connects you to doctors and therapists at any time for nonemergency issues “when your primary care physician isn’t available.” The average wait time is less than fifteen minutes to see a certified physician. The app is easy to use and for people of all ages who are prone to experiencing health emergencies, this app is a good one to become familiar with.
Symple Symptom Tracker
Symple Symptom Tracker is an example of an app that’s meant to help you monitor your own conditions and symptoms. The app allows you to log how you’re feeling, make a list of questions or notes for your doctor, track your meals, see your heart rate, and more. If the world of telehealth makes you uneasy, apps like this are a great way to start to become familiar with the digital side of things.