What Is This Thing Called Telemedicine?

what is telemedicine

Everywhere you turn you hear this term “telemedicine”. Is it a new specialty or is it a new way of taking care of patients? The truth is we have been practicing telemedicine for years, we just didn’t call it telemedicine.

Let’s start by going back to the recent past; the doctor saw you either in the office, the hospital and sometimes even made house calls. He/she had their black doctor’s bag with all the tools of the trade. For those who are old enough to remember, think back to the television show Marcus Welby, MD. You called the doctor’s office and the doctor saw you in the office or made a house call. Sometimes the doctor called you back and decided to call you in a prescription based upon the most likely diagnosis. This is the first example of telemedicine – calling your doctor and having them call in a treatment without having seen the patient in person.

How is Telemedicine Used Today

Fast forward to today, we have exchanged the black doctor’s bag and phone line for an iPhone and a tablet. Telemedicine today has met technology, and includes videoconferencing or simply a smart phone conversation.

According to Nobel Peace Prize winner Bernard Lown, (who was the original developer of the DC defibrillator and the cardioverter) the medical history provides enough information in about 75% of patient encounters to make the diagnosis before performing a physical examination or any additional tests. Studies show that in up to 83% of cases, medical history alone can reveal a diagnosis.

Most people have called a doctor’s office at least once for an appointment. The problem is, usually you are not able to be seen at a time that is convenient for you. Then you arrive to wait another hour or two before seeing the doctor. The other option is visiting an urgent care center or, in the worst case scenario, an emergency room. The ER can be cost prohibitive and there are not a large number of urgent care centers available.

The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that by 2025 there will be a shortfall of between 12,500 and 31,100 primary care physicians. This physician shortage is expected to persist under every likely scenario, including increased use of advanced practice nurses (sometimes called NPs), greater use of alternate settings such as retail clinics, or delayed physician retirement. So the problem of getting in to a doctor is going to be harder.

At the same time, every physician has had a friend, neighbor or acquaintance ask them for either medical advice or to call in a prescription for some minor ailment.

Wouldn’t it be great if we all had a doctor as a friend or neighbor?

That’s where telemedicine comes in. Defined as “the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology,” telemedicine allows you to be diagnosed and treated via your phone. A doctor can prescribe you prescriptions and get them delivered to your nearby pharmacy without having to see you in person.

At besafemeds, we use telemedicine to allow you to get safely tested and diagnosed for Sexually Transmitted Diseases. If you suspect you may have an STD, but are worried about discretion, simply fill out our online forms to receive a possible diagnosis and/or treatment options.

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