Our medical system is broken. I know this may not come as a shock to many of you. But for those who need convincing, let me share the truth of the situation. Here are some of the alarming trends:
- Healthcare costs are RISING
- There is NO transparency as to what medical services actually cost
- Insurance companies are DECREASING coverage
- Reimbursement to doctors and hospitals is DECREASING
- SHORTAGE of quality doctors
- Influence of pharmaceutical and device companies is INCREASING
- Administrative burden on doctors is INCREASING
These factors are leading to angry patients and I don’t blame you. However, it’s also leading to physician burn-out. Everyday doctors are being asked to see more patients and perform more non-clinical activities; paperwork, button-clicking, unnecessary meetings, and phone calls with insurance companies. If we seem distracted, this is why.
This system cannot continue to provide quality care. And it’s time that we use technology to our advantage. Enter telemedicine, a medical visit with a doctor via an on-line, secure, video conferencing platform. I’m going to make a bold prediction. I believe that telemedicine can actually lead to BETTER healthcare. Let me explain.
Top 10 Reasons You Should Consider a Telemedicine Visit
1. Money Well Spent
Have you ever asked yourself:
“Why do I even have insurance? It might be less expensive to pay for this completely out-of-pocket.”
Deductibles, premiums, and co-pays continue to increase. Choices with how your money is spent continue to decrease. A telemedicine visit allows you to pay your doctor directly. Money is no longer going to some insurance company trying to profit off of your health.
2. Full Transparency
Want to know how much your visit is going to cost? Here it is. No more hidden fees. No letters from your insurance company with an explanation of benefits that make no sense. You’ll know exactly how much money you’ll be spending and what you will be receiving.
3. Save Time
A recent study showed that a doctor will only spend 15-20 minutes of face-to-face time with you. Compare that to the 2 hours total time that you waste traveling to and waiting in a doctor’s office. Think about it. You have to get dressed, leave your work or home, drive to the office, find parking, check in, fill out paperwork, sit in the waiting room, sit in the exam room, wait to check out and finally drive home. It’s exhausting! With a telemedicine visit you spend at most 5-10 minutes downloading an app on your phone, scheduling and paying for the visit, and filling out a brief intake form. Done. Then you get time with the doctor. When the visit is over, you go back to your day.
4. Eliminate Frustration
Think of all the tedium associated with traditional office visits to see a specialist. First, you need a referral from your primary care doctor. Then it’s a game of phone tag with the specialist’s office to make an appointment while you’re trying to get your child to soccer practice. When you do get them on the phone, the first available appointment isn’t for 6 weeks and the time is terrible. Frustrated yet? When you finally arrive for the appointment 6 weeks later, you find out your referring doctor didn’t send over the correct paperwork and no one knows why you are there. What a mess.
You can eliminate all of this painful frustration. Instead, schedule an appointment on-line at a time that works for you. Weekends, nights, early morning? No problem. Forget dealing with office staff and directly access your doctor. Doesn’t that sound better?
5. Eliminate Hidden Costs
Yes, a telemedicine visit can be more expensive on the surface. But look deeper and I’ll argue that you’re saving money. How much is it costing you to:
- Take time off of work
- Arrange childcare
- Pay for gas/parking or arrange transportation
Remember, this is in addition to rising co-pays, deductibles and all the services your insurance company no longer covers. You’re probably spending $150 to go see a specialist for a routine consultation if you add up all of these costs. Is that really worth it for the 2 hours of your day you lost and only a 10 minute visit? I don’t think so.
Telemedicine allows you to have a video visit on your phone from the comfort of your home or office. You don’t have to leave work. Close your office door or sneak into the conference room for your visit. Rather be at home? Sit on the couch and we can chat while the kids are doing homework. You choose your own appointment time. Heck, we even offer nights and weekends.
As a urologist, I deal with some embarrassing conditions: erectile dysfunction, incontinence and bedwetting to name a few. I also deal with sensitive subjects like cancer. How many times have you been in a medical office and overhead a conversation about another patient? Ever wonder what people are hearing about your medical care? We take patient privacy seriously but thin walls don’t always protect you 100%. Some of you may live in a small town or travel in small circles. How many times have you run into someone you know at a doctor’s office? It happens to me all the time. The only people who will know about your telemedicine visit are you and your doctor.
8. High Quality Care With Compassion
If you’re like most Americans, your access to a particular specialist is likely limited by several factors. A specialist must be:
- In-network with your insurance company
- Known and respected by your primary care doctor
- Within reasonable driving distance
In some cases, the specialist who meets these criteria may lack much more important features such as:
- Listening skills
- Medical knowledge
- Competent office staff
Telemedicine allows you choose a physician based on these more important features. With positive Google reviews, a strong social media and on-line presence, it would be next to impossible for a truly bad doctor to pose as a well respected one.
9. Full Attention
You’re not the only one who enjoys visits from home! I also get to sit in a comfortable chair and relax during our telemedicine visit. I am not under the pressure of other phone calls or time restraints and I can concentrate on what I love most which is helping people. It’s just you and me. I set my own schedule. If I’m overworked or tired then I don’t have to open my schedule. I hate to admit this, but every doctor has had to will him or herself through a day of clinic/surgery despite not feeling 100% mentally or physically. Doctors don’t get sick days. With telemedicine, you’ll get me when I’m at my best.
10. Improved Communication
Don’t you wish that it were possible to have a direct follow up visit with your doctor? You can! Most telemedicine platforms (including the one I use, Calling Dr) allow for secure text messaging through the app. I also have a secure business email address. I can directly send you educational material and answer follow up questions. I also want feedback. I don’t want to have to convince you that telemedicine is phenomenal. I want you to experience it.
For the record, I am not “burned out” with medicine. I am incredibly grateful to be a physician and I truly love what I do. For me, it is a privilege to comfort people during scary, painful experiences. I’m honored anytime someone asks me to be on their healthcare team. Sadly, there are too many outside forces working to impede quality compassionate healthcare. However, I am convinced that telemedicine gives us hope. Hope that we can reclaim the core value in healthcare, the sacred doctor-patient relationship.