The Pros and Cons of Online Healthcare

Think back to the last time you went to a doctor’s appointment. Was it a seamless process, or did you run into problems? Maybe you got caught in a traffic jam or circled the parking garage looking for a spot. Once you got to the waiting room, was it filled with no available seats?

Let’s face it, going to the doctor keeps you healthy, but it can be annoying. That’s why telehealth has become so popular. You see your physician without going to the clinic or hospital. It sounds great, but is it really? The answer is yes … and no. 

Like anything else, telehealth has its pros and cons. If you’re making a virtual appointment with your regular doc or another provider, you need to be aware of the good and the bad. So here’s a list of things you should keep in mind.

Pros

#1 Quick Prescriptions

Sometimes you don’t really have a major issue to discuss with your doctor. Maybe all you need is a prescription, say for birth control or acne treatment. 

Online healthcare providers simplify these requests. Instead of spending hours getting to and from an in-person visit, a short online consult can yield the needed Rx in minutes. If you do a televisit with your primary care physician, they can send an electronic prescription to your pharmacy with a few keystrokes. 

#2 No Need to Take Time Off From Work

Making a doctor’s appointment previously involved taking time off work. If you’re an hourly employee, not being on the clock means you aren’t getting paid. Even if you’re salaried, your boss may get peeved when you take time off.

Video visits fix this problem. A lunchtime or breaktime appointment in a private spot lets you talk to your doctor without disrupting your schedule. You’re back to work in no time.

#3 No Time or Money Spent on Transportation

Copays aren’t the only costs linked to in-person appointments. Taking public transit, parking in a garage, and gassing up your tank all cost money. Telehealth erases those added expenses. It’s free to log into your virtual visit from your desk or couch. 

Computer appointments also save you time. Instead of spending a half-hour getting across town, you don’t have to stop what you’re doing until seconds before the call.

#4 Access to Specialists

Do you enjoy small-town life? It can be great, but it also means you have fewer doctors nearby. There’s an even smaller number of specialists. So what do you do when you need a cardiologist, neurologist, or rheumatologist? You make a telehealth appointment.

The best physician to meet your needs may be located across the country. Making that trip could empty your bank account. Schedule a virtual consultation instead. It’s the quickest, easiest way to talk to an expert about any care you might need.

#5 Limited Exposures

You’ve heard all about this over the past two years. The fewer people you’re around, the less likely you are to get sick. That goes for everything from avoiding COVID-19 to sidestepping the common cold.

Telehealth keeps you out of the cramped waiting room, where you may find yourself in the crosshairs of a sneeze. On the flip side, if you’re sick, it also stops you from spreading your germs to others. Waiting rooms can be petri dishes, so this is a win-win!

Cons

#1 No Vitals or Tests

What’s the first thing that happens when you step into the exam room for an in-person appointment? The nurse checks your temperature and your blood pressure. Checking these vital signs isn’t possible when you’re across town in your living room.

The same is true for any lab tests. Routine blood and urine tests are an important part of managing chronic conditions, such as diabetes. If your visits are virtual, your doctor can miss changes or early warning signs. That makes it harder to diagnose any problems. 

#2 Missed Screenings

Speaking of early warning signs, screening tests are the best way to catch minor problems before they become big issues. Unless it’s a mental health screening, you must see your doctor in person. 

Physicians recommend you start screenings for various problems by certain ages. Women should start mammograms by age 40. Colonoscopies are recommended for men and women by age 55. These tests require special equipment, so you’ll miss out on potentially life-saving tests if you stick to virtual visits alone.

#3 No Insurance Coverage

Telehealth is becoming more commonplace, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your insurance covers it. For example, some companies require in-person visits before they’ll absorb some of the cost. If that’s the case, you could end up footing the bill out of pocket.

That said, some insurance providers may cover same-day (urgent) telehealth visits. Others may only cover visits for annual care. Before scheduling a virtual appointment, check your policy or call the company to see whether they’ll approve it.

#4 Spotty Security

During the pandemic, video security hit the spotlight when several schools were “Zoom bombed” during class time. Virtual healthcare appointments can be just as vulnerable. If you opt for an online visit, your personal health information could be at risk.

Before you consider making a telehealth appointment, talk to your doctor’s office about their security systems. What tools do they have in place that will keep your conversation secure and private? You need to know your medical information will be protected.

#5 Less Doctor-Patient Connection

One of the best things about having the same doctor for years is the great relationship you build. They know your medical history and the health-related issues that cause you problems. A lot of that easy back-and-forth comes from countless in-person appointments. 

It’s hard to get to know someone through a computer screen. Building a good relationship is even harder if you only see a random on-call doctor for virtual visits. If you don’t know the physician, you may be uncomfortable talking about sensitive health subjects. That means some problems may linger until it’s too late.

 

As with so much in life, healthcare is going high-tech. The new approach is convenient, but it isn’t a picture-perfect option. So consider the upsides and downsides before you decide whether telehealth is good for you.

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Lisa Frank

Lisa Frank

Lisa Frank is a guest author at More By Us Blog.

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