Telemedicine, telehealth, e-medicine or a Zoom call with your doctor – whatever you call it, online doctors’ appointments were already becoming more common before they kicked into high gear over the past couple of years. There are a lot of advantages to being able to see your doctor without having to go to their office – particularly for people in rural areas, who don’t have easy access to transportation or can’t afford to risk being exposed to viruses and germs in a medical facility.
These online visits should never be a substitute for regular visits to your doctor. Typically, doctors will only use them when they need to follow up with a patient on how they’re reacting to a new medication or treatment or when it’s not feasible for a patient to come in, but they want to see them before they renew a prescription.
When should – and shouldn’t – telemedicine be used?
Most doctors are very conservative about when they’ll do a telehealth visit. That’s likely why, according to a 2019 study, there were no known telehealth-related malpractice suits.
Even though most diagnoses shouldn’t be based solely on telehealth visits, when used only for appropriate situations, can have some advantages. When a doctor can see a patient in their home environment, they can often pick up on things they wouldn’t if the patient was in their office.
They might spot a plant that could be the cause of the allergy symptoms that have been plaguing their patient for years. Several screaming kids in the background could be a factor in a patient’s constant, unexplained headaches. These visits also allow family members to join in from other locations – with the patient’s permission. An adult child can “join” their mother’s visit from another state or around the world.
The quality of any visit – whether in person or online – typically depends on the quality of the doctor. If possible, don’t make a telehealth appointment with a doctor you don’t know. Certainly, be careful about those companies that promote the ability to get a prescription for a medication you’re too embarrassed to see your doctor about by having a brief online chat with one of their medical professionals.
If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered harm due to a doctor’s error or negligence, it’s wise to seek legal advice to determine whether you have a case.