Technology is making all aspects of our lives easier and more convenient – and that includes doctor visits.
Telemedicine is the electronic exchange of health information from one site to another. “Telemedicine can now be used to diagnose medical conditions that may have previously required an office visit,” says internal medicine specialist Matthew Faiman, MD. “It can also be used to help manage chronic conditions.”
When people hear the word telemedicine, they often associate it with high-end technology. But it’s often much simpler than that. It includes a variety of platforms like video, email and smartphones.
Video or smartphone conferencing
Video or smartphone conferencing allows you to meet with a doctor from the privacy of your home or office. “It’s just like using FaceTime® or Skype™, only it’s done through a secure HIPAA-compliant portal,” Dr. Faiman says. “All you need is a smartphone or a computer with a web cam and Internet access. Download the MyCare app and you’re ready to go.”
During your virtual visit, the doctor will ask about your symptoms and in some cases, do a visual examination. “If you have a rash, we can take a look at that during a video conference,” says Dr. Faiman. “I sometimes also ask people who have sore throats to shine a flashlight into their mouth so I can see what it looks like.”
Once your doctor arrives at a diagnosis, he or she can send prescriptions electronically to the pharmacy where they will be ready for pick-up.
Video or smartphone conferencing can also be used for follow-up appointments after surgery.
“If you live four hours away and your doctor just needs to look at your surgical site and check your labs, you can have the labs drawn locally and sent to the doctor in advance,” Dr. Faiman says. “The doctor can then look at your surgical site remotely, which will save you an eight-hour drive.”
Cleveland Clinic has partnered with HealthSpot to offer walk-in telemedicine kiosks in convenient locations. Patients can walk up to a station without scheduling an appointment and be treated for minor health conditions, including cold and flu, rashes and skin conditions, eye conditions, earaches, sore throat, sinus infections, upper respiratory infections and seasonal allergies.
“When you get to the location, a medical technician will take you into a private kiosk,” Dr. Faiman says. “The kiosks are equipped with video cameras and web cams, so you can connect live with a doctor. They also have devices that will allow the doctor to look in your ear or throat, check your blood pressure, listen to your heart and check your temperature.” As with video conferencing, prescriptions can be sent electronically.
Not all telemedicine requires video. “For example, if you need follow-up for hypertension after being prescribed a new blood pressure medication, you can self-monitor, then upload your information, which will then go to the doctor’s inbox,” says Dr. Faiman. “The same can be done for patients who have diabetes or other chronic conditions.”
Simple to use
According to Dr. Faiman, you do not need to be technologically savvy to use telemedicine. “It’s easy to use for all ages,” he says. “I have yet to run across a patient who is uncomfortable with the technology after trying it.”