You should know when you need to go to the hospital, and you might have a good sense of when an in-person doctor’s visit is warranted. However, with the greater availability of telemedicine, you might be wondering: What kind of health situation is appropriate for a virtual healthcare appointment?
While you might want to talk to your healthcare provider about your unique situation — especially if you suffer from a chronic disorder that requires specific types of treatment — here are a few good indications that a virtual doctor’s visit should suffice:
Not all disease symptoms are easy to spot, and plenty of subtle signs are nothing to be concerned about. If you have noted some changes to your health and wellbeing but aren’t quite sure they warrant a full doctor’s visit, you shouldn’t feel bad about using telehealth to better understand what is going on in your body. In most instances, providers will assuage your fears, identifying an innocuous cause of your symptoms, like gas or poor diet. However, it could be that booking a virtual doctor’s visit allows you to identify a chronic condition or serious disease that justifies more intensive, in-person medical care.
There are a handful of circumstances that don’t really warrant a trip to the doctor’s office, except that you need a prescription for the right kind of treatment. Often, patients have experienced a condition before or already have a diagnosis and treatment plan; however, because medications and tests sometimes require a doctor’s order, these patients still need to consult with a medical professional, despite their own certainty regarding what they need to better manage their own health.
If you are suffering from a common and relatively minor disease, especially one you have experienced before — like a urinary tract infection or the common cold — it is usually more sensible to visit an online doctor instead of bothering to make a trip to a healthcare provider in person. The same is true if you need to renew an old prescription or raise or lower the dosage of a prescription you are familiar with.
Mental health is just as important as physical health; in fact, mental health can impact physical health, so there is a good argument that keeping your mental health in check is among the most important activities for wellness. Thus, if you have any concerns regarding your mental health, it is wise to see a healthcare provider about them as soon as possible.
Mental health treatment translates well to virtual care because it rarely involves hands-on testing or treatment. In fact, you might find it more comforting to talk to a mental health expert from your own space rather than an unfamiliar and potentially unnerving office. Some mental health providers are able to prescribe medications during virtual visits, but you might benefit merely from a regular opportunity to explore your thoughts and emotions safely.
Some people live down the street from their doctor’s office, and some live just a short drive from the hospital. However, there are plenty of people who live in so-called healthcare deserts, where providers are remarkably scarce and patients have to travel hours to seek treatment. If you live in a rural area or lack the necessary transportation infrastructure to reach a healthcare provider in a reasonable amount of time, it makes more sense for you to make your first appointment a virtual one. Then, you can discuss your symptoms with a knowledgeable provider, who can make recommendations to visit a provider in-person — or who might diagnose your condition and provide a prescription on the spot.
You might not live far from a healthcare provider, but that doesn’t mean you have the time to travel to a doctor’s office and wait around for what could be hours to speak with a provider. If you have a demanding career or dependents that require an abundance of your time, you probably don’t have a minute to waste. Virtual healthcare appointments are much more respectful of your time. Instead of flipping through magazines in an exam room, you can be productive at home or work as you check in and wait for your provider. Then, if your condition is deemed serious, you can make time in your schedule for in-person tests and treatments.
In truth, there is no bad reason to log into a virtual doctor’s appointment — unless you are experiencing a medical emergency, an online doctor will always be able to guide you toward better health.