Updated: Jan 5
Telemedicine has been a staple for patients to obtain access to health care resources throughout this pandemic. That does not mean that it has not been around in the previous years. It simply means that people are now more aware of its existence and are utilizing the service to ease the burdens of long wait times, appointment availability and for the mere convenience that it provides. Although telemedicine makes day to day life much easier for many people, the process is not for everyone. It is important to know whether an in-person visit is necessary for your issue vs a quick check in with a provider.
Conditions that require a closer look should be seen in person. And most importantly, conditions that are emergent in nature should ALWAYS be evaluated by calling 911 or visiting the emergency department. Some of these conditions include chest pain, shortness of breath, severe headache, loss of visual field, numbness or weakness to an extremity or either side of the body, and an irregular heart rhythm. This list is obviously not all inclusive, but any situation that can not wait should be an in-person visit.
Telemedicine has opened the doors to access of care for many more Americans, so let’s focus a bit on when telemedicine is appropriate. Obviously, surgery or sensitive exams must be done in person, but treatment of some chronic conditions, prescription refills and simple visits that do not require an in-depth physical exam may be done via telemedicine. Some of these conditions are asthma medication refills, bronchitis, sinus infections, ear infections, pink eye, seasonal allergies, urinary tract infections, sexual transmitted infections, nausea, vomiting, benign prostatic hypertrophy, anxiety issues, uncomplicated skin infections and many other minor conditions.
If you are on the fence regarding whether telemedicine is for you, then focus primarily on your needs at that moment. First, decide if your condition is emergent and requires immediate attention. If so, as stated above, call 911 or head to the emergency department for evaluation. Second, take note of your condition and decide if the convenience of telemedicine suites your needs. Third, locate a provider that you can trust. And lastly, schedule your appointment or consultation and obtain the care that you deserve!
John S. Beasley, III, NP