The internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, shop, and live our lives. Now, with the development of virtual clinics, you can visit an online doctor without leaving the comfort of your home. Though relatively new, virtual clinics have a large number of benefits and are tailored to each patient’s need, just like a traditional visit to the doctor.
Four Challenges Facing Primary & Urgent Care Clinics
Usually, when you are sick, you would visit either a primary clinic or urgent care center and consult with a doctor or nurse. However, there are many problems that patients and medical providers encounter with this model that online doctors can help solve.
The Center for Disease Control & Prevention states that, in 2016, there were over 145.6 million visits to the emergency room. Despite urgent care clinics implementing longer hours and more locations, there is often not enough resources or staff to properly care for a large number of patients.
When you visit a primary or urgent clinic, you check in with the receptionist, then wait with other sick people to see a doctor. The longer you wait, the higher your chances of becoming infected by another ill person.
For patients in rural areas, a trip to an urgent clinic requires travel that may not be possible, depending on the illness and whether you have access to a vehicle or public transportation.
Many urgent clinics and most primary doctors do not see patients during the weekend or on a 24/7 schedule. The lack of 24/7 access to a clinic means that when you’re sick and need a doctor in the middle of the night, you would not be able to see a doctor until the next day.
The Benefits of Online Doctors & Virtual Clinics
In an online clinic, a physician communicates with their patients using a secure video or chat platform. This setup has many benefits for patients, medical clinics, and hospitals.
No Waiting Room
Seeing a doctor online means that you don’t have to sit in a crowded waiting room to see a doctor – you log into your account and arrange the best time for you.
No Travel Time
If you don’t have access to a vehicle or public transportation, you’re able to visit the doctor from the comfort of your own home.
When you’re sick and need help, waiting is the last thing you want to do. Having access to a doctor at any time of the day makes getting medical help easy and convenient for you.
Common Myths About Online Doctors
There are many myths about online doctors that prevent people from taking advantage of this convenient technology.
Often, people believe that the only means of communication in a virtual clinic is through email or chat, but most platforms also incorporate webcams (or cameras, for phones) and microphones.
Some may even be skeptical about online visits because they question the credibility of online doctors. To research a doctor’s credentials, you can visit your state’s physician licensing board and DocInfo and check whether the doctor is listed.
What Can Online Doctors Do For Me?
Before you visit an online doctor, it’s helpful to know how they can and cannot help you.
Many patients who visit conventional medical facilities have easily diagnosable and treatable conditions. Online doctors can typically treat you for the conditions for which you’d visit a traditional doctor. Here is a list of illnesses and symptoms for which an online doctor can write prescriptions:
- High Blood Pressure
- Diabetes (controlled and uncontrolled type II)
- Birth control
- Hair loss
- Back pain
- Migraines and headaches
- Strep throat
- Yeast infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Sinus infections
- Pink eye
- Ear infections, ear pain, and swimmer’s ear
In addition to online communications with doctors and other medical professionals, people can now also receive doctor’s notes online.
What To Do Before You Visit An Online Doctor
Make An Account
Before scheduling an online appointment, you’ll need to make an online account with some general information about yourself. You may also need your driver’s license or another valid photo ID.
Medical Records & Prescriptions
Your medical records give the online doctor a general rundown of your medical history, your needs, any allergies to medications, and previous surgeries. If you don’t have your medical records, you can request a copy of your medical records from your doctor or primary care physician. Be sure to have a list of any prescription medications and vitamins you’re currently regularly taking as well.
Check Your Insurance
It’s helpful to have your insurance cards nearby to know your current coverage for online medical appointments. Note that your health insurance may either not cover virtual clinics or require an in-person visit before coverage. It is best to contact your insurance provider before scheduling an appointment.