Telemedicine has been around for years, but with all of the technology at hand, it has opened up even more doors for online assistance. The best part is that all you need to participate is access to a cell phone or an internet connection! With new telemedicine services erupting every day, we wanted to answer all of your questions about it here.
Why would I choose telemedicine?
Before we get into the intricacies of how it actually works, we wanted to address some reasons why someone would consider telemedicine. It is also important to consider that just because you might want to try it out, it doesn’t mean that you can’t also participate in some in-person sessions as well.
No travel required
We all know how bad the Seattle traffic can be. When we are driving through the city to get to our appointment, sometimes we don’t even know how early we have to leave so we make it on time. Or maybe, we leave at a normal time, but the traffic is so bad that we miss half of our meeting. Whichever the reasoning, telemedicine is much more convenient than physically meeting with a medical professional and it eliminates the frustrations that often come along with travel in the city.
A lot of times, telehealth platforms are much more cost-efficient and could even lead to overall reduced costs of care. Think about it. By not physically going to the location, both you and the therapist can save on travel expenses, the cost of the building, receptionists, etc. This is especially something to consider if you live in a more rural setting and have to make weekly drives into the city just for that one appointment. Think about all of the time and gas saved by using telehealth instead!
More flexible scheduling
This idea goes along with convenience, but it is important to realize that with telemedicine options, scheduling becomes a lot easier. Without having to physically trek to the office or wait on other appointments, you can schedule a meeting at a time when you are both available.
Imagine being able to communicate with your doctor or therapist anywhere you’d like, just with the click of a button. Going on a long vacation? You don’t have to miss that valuable time exploring your mental health. With telemedicine, you can access appointments whenever and wherever your schedule permits.
That sounds great, but what about the cons?
While there are great advantages to telemedicine, there are some drawbacks that you should be aware of before you choose to move forward with it. The main disadvantage is that telemedicine is not for everyone. Each person’s behavioral healthcare is unique and there are cases where in-person evaluation and care is a necessity. In particular, cases that require any form of physical examination would not be able to receive a proper diagnosis over the phone or computer.
Another thing to be aware of is that telemedicine is based on technology and we all know that technology can have its glitches. Anything that is a threat to your internet connection could be a block in making a scheduled telehealth appointment and problems with the telemedicine software could potentially cause delays or missed connections if not worked out it time. Smartphones typically offer more security from these glitches as they don’t necessarily rely on your internet connection alone.
Do I Have to Make an In-person Visit First?
Some states require patients to make one in-person visit before starting down their telehealth journey. In the state of Seattle, this is not a requirement so finding time to go in for that first consultation is something you won’t have to worry about. Of course, if you decide that you would like in-person meetings, signing up with our telemedicine program doesn’t mean you can only interact online!
Can I Still Be Given Prescriptions?
Providers are still allowed to prescribe medications in the state of Washington, even if they are practicing through telemedicine. A full patient evaluation must be conducted and their medical history must be known in order to complete a diagnosis and prescription. This is held to the same standards as traditional medicine. Basically, you won’t be able to get a prescription just by filling out an online form or consultation. A full evaluation must be conducted by the licensed medical professional administering the prescription.
Is My Medical Information Safe?
Telemedicine is still a form of professional medical attention and as such, it is held to the same HIPAA regulations. The connections for the telemedicine service are secure and cannot be transmitted anywhere else. The payment services also must be conducted through HIPAA compliant platforms.
Does My Insurance Still Cover Telemedicine?
As of January 1, 2017, the state of Washington required that all insurance providers cover some telemedicine services. Typically, in-person mental health services are covered in the same way as virtual therapy, but the exact coverage will vary based on your individual insurance company. If you are at all uncertain, you can always give the company a call and find out for sure what is covered before you make a commitment.
Can I start a telehealth program with my current doctor?
Just because telemedicine is expanding in the Seattle area does not necessarily mean that your doctor is a participant. Whether or not a medical professional chooses to participate is completely up to them. Don’t hesitate to start a conversation with them if you are truly interested in giving it a real try. You never know if it’s something they have been considering and having the conversation might make them more open to the idea.
As for local centers, Mindful Therapy Group has quite a few mental health practitioners who are currently practicing telemedicine and would be a great resource to check out if you are searching for telehealth care. You can find a list of them on their site here.
What if I don’t live in Seattle or Washington?
Everything we have compiled so far has been based on the laws and regulations for the state of Washington. Not every state has the same guidelines for practicing telemedicine, so it is important that you are asking the right questions based on where you live. The Center for Connected Health Policy has compiled easy-to-access information based on each state’s own telehealth policies and regulations.