Before this pandemic, my experience with remote health care was limited to a few phone calls to doctors’ offices to discuss prescription refills or to confirm no new symptoms after starting a new medicine.
Now, I have two telemedicine appointments under my belt and here’s my personal verdict — it’s strange, but definitely something I could get used to.
The benefits of being able to consult with a medical professional from the safety of my own home, in a time when we are all actively trying to avoid a highly contagious and deadly virus percolating through society are undeniable.
Typically, when I schedule any kind of appointment, I do my best to pick a time slot that is very early in the morning or late in the afternoon because I know that although I will only get about 20 minutes of face time with an actual medical professional, the whole experience is bound to throw a monkey wrench in my day.
It will take me up to 30 minutes with traffic to drive to the doctor’s office. Then, even though I arrived 15 minutes early as instructed, I will spend about 10 minutes filling out the same four forms I’m asked to complete upon every visit, and another 15 to 20 more minutes just sitting in the waiting room, watching and listening as other people are called back to exam rooms. The wait might feel even longer if I’m seated near someone who is quite clearly there for a consultation regarding some kind of horrific and potentially communicable cough-inducing sickness, and not just a routine check up like me.
When my name is eventually announced, I will be guided to a room where I will wait some more. Sometimes I will only spend about 10 more minutes sitting on an exam table, crinkling that thin paper covering with every fidget. Sometimes it’ll be more. Then following a brief, very familiar chat with my doctor and a friendly nurse, I will hop back in my car and spend another half hour racing to get back to my office, or to get home before hunger turns into road rage.
For my recent telemedicine video call, all I had to do was walk to my couch, log onto my computer and click a link. My doctor appeared on my screen right at the scheduled appointment time, and we ran through the expected questions and chatted casually about my overall well being and how I’ve been coping during this particularly wild time. And that was it. The whole experience took less than a half hour, then I was able to get right back to work.
Granted, there were parts of the visit that were a bit odd and unfamiliar. Like the fact that I had to send my doctor a selfie so that she could more closely examine my eyes and face. But by and large, I didn’t feel that I missed out on anything by not completing the visit in person. In fact, I was more at ease about the encounter because I was more comfortable in my home environment, free from worry that anyone I was sharing a waiting room with might have Covid-19 or any other infectious disease. And I’ve never been crazy about the idea of paying the copay for a visit that sometimes feels like it could have been done via email anyway.
I understand that there are some medical encounters that will continue to be necessary to conduct in person. I’m no doctor, but I imagine it would be a little tricky to complete a thorough eye examination or a mammogram remotely.
Still, as the public adjusts to a slew of new practices taking hold in the health care arena amid Covid-19, I take comfort in the knowledge that I can access the same quality care from just a click away instead of a 30-minute drive. Maybe it’s the technology-and-ease-of-access-loving millennial in me, but I expect and hope this ongoing mass migration to telemedicine will leave a lasting mark on our collective interactions with this industry.