By Derek Brawner
COVID-19 took hold of not only the world stage in March 2020, but it took hold of our local communities as well. U.S. doctors limited in-person appointments and many patients avoided them for fear of infection. The result was a huge increase in the volume of virtual medical and behavioral health visits. According to a recent article by McKinsey and Company I read, doctors conducted 50 to 175 times the number of virtual visits in spring 2020 than they did in years prior. In this article, we’re going to take a look at some pros and cons of seeing a doctor via virtual visit. Please make sure to check with your medical provider to see if they offer virtual appointments. If so, most medical insurance providers now offer a virtual appointment health benefit (often referred to as telehealth or telemedicine benefits), and it would be best to call them and see if this benefit is available to you and what it entails.
Let’s start with the pros of virtual visits:
- You usually can get an appointment quicker than trying to schedule an in-person visit.
- You might not need to take time off from work to do a virtual visit.
- If you don’t drive or have reliable transportation, you won’t need to worry about scheduling a ride to your appointment.
- You don’t have to visit a crowded doctor’s office, where it’s possible to catch an infection or infect others.
- The cost of virtual appointments might be lower than in-person appointments.
Now for some cons:
- Some medical conditions and diagnoses require you see a doctor in-person.
- You’ll need good internet access for virtual visits. Some rural areas might not have access to high-speed internet.
- You might not feel as comfortable speaking with a doctor virtually, especially if you like the one-on-one aspect of in-person visits.
It’s worth noting that some people may fear that their medical information or personal data may possibly be at risk for hackers and possible identity theft. But if you use the virtual visit platform your provider or insurance company makes available to you, you can almost always have confidence that it’s safe, private and secure.
As technological advances continue, you might see more and more doctors utilizing virtual visits to see more patients and provide timely diagnosis of medical issues. You may not get that same closeness you like when you see them in person, but with new technology you can still meet with you doctor one-on-one virtually in the comfort of your own home.
I can speak from a personal experience of a virtual doctor’s appointment I’ve had. Most platforms for virtual visits let you select a backdrop on the computer, so you could have a backdrop of outer space, a beach, a garden or a family photo. During the virtual visit I felt much more relaxed at home instead of in the small, dull exam room at the doctor’s office. This made speaking with my doctor much easier. I felt that I was not rushed, and since I was more relaxed I was able to better relay my medical issues to the doctor for treatment. The best thing about the virtual visit was the amount of time I had with my doctor – they were not rushing from one exam room to the next trying to see all their patients. For me, the more one-on-one time with my doctor was a huge benefit because I felt I had the doctor’s full attention – which is what most patients want when they see the doctor, virtual or not. I’m thankful for this technology that has helped keep our life semi-normal, and grateful for these virtual visits that help keep people safe, secure, healthy and heard.
Source used to help write this article:
Oleg Bestsennyy et al., “Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?,” McKinsey & Company, 29 May 2020, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/telehealth-a-quarter-trillion-dollar-post-covid-19-reality.