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Understanding Telemedicine

If you have never come across a telemedicine service before, you might soon. The use of telemedicine in the United States is rapidly growing, according to the American Telemedicine Association (ATA). Here are some quick stats from the ATA:

  • Approximately 200 telemedicine networks, with 3,500 service sites, currently operate in the United States
  • Nearly 1 million Americans use remote cardiac monitors
  • The Veterans Health Administration has delivered more than 300,000 remote consultations using telemedicine
  • Over half of all hospitals in the United States now use some form of telemedicine

Around the world, millions of patients use telemedicine to monitor their vital signs, consult with qualified physicians, and avoid hospitals. But what is telemedicine and is it right for your family?

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the remote delivery of healthcare using the Internet, wireless or satellite technology, or telephone services. Also referred to as virtual healthcare or telehealth, telemedicine involves the diagnosis and treatment of patients by medical experts who are miles, or even continents, away.

What Can Telemedicine Be Used For?

Common examples of telemedicine services include:

  • Using a remote cardiac monitor to manage a heart condition
  • Enabling new parents to access virtual visits with a pediatrician via webcam or smartphone
  • Treating common ailments such as the flu, sinusitis, or infections from home with a physician or nurse practitioner
  • Scheduling phone or video appointments with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker to treat behavioral conditions like addiction or depression

Benefits of Using Telemedicine For Your Family

Telemedicine has been heralded by some as a way to save money while providing quality care for patients who might not otherwise have convenient access to specialists or even primary care, such as those in rural communities.

It is also considered to be an important way to address the growing health needs of older Americans because it theoretically puts a virtual doctor or nurse right into the homes of patients, as frequently as needed, monitoring their health and making real-time diagnoses and treatment adjustments.

Does Insurance Cover Virtual Doctor Visits?

It is likely that your insurance does cover telemedicine services. According to the ATA , 34 states and the District of Columbia require that private insurers cover remote healthcare services the same way they cover in-person services. To find out if your insurance company covers virtual doctor visits, contact your benefits manager.

Medicare and Medicaid also cover some telemedicine services, though coverage is rapidly changing and varies by state. State-specific information is available from the American Telemedicine Association .

Regardless of your insurance coverage, if you are prescribed a medication through telehealth resources or in-person care, a prescription discount card from FamilyWize can help you save money at the pharmacy counter. Find out how our free card works to provide patients with an average savings of 45% on prescription drugs.

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