Virtual Doctor Visits

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Virtual Doctor Visits

Consider the convenience of seeing your health-care provider with a computer or smartphone and avoiding long wait times at the office. Such visits in the comfort of your home are called virtual care, also known as telemedicine, telehealth or simply e-visits.

Virtual care visits — often over the phone or via webcam — involve the remote diagnosis and treatment by health-care providers. It’s handy for people living with diabetes who are regularly checked and monitored for uncontrolled blood sugar or potential complications. These e-visits are gaining popularity as more health-care providers tout their benefits and health insurance companies cover the costs.

Across the country, medical centers and hospitals are opening virtual care centers, especially to serve people in rural areas. Here’s what you can expect if virtual care visits are an option in the future.

Diabetes care

Virtual care visits can benefit those living with diabetes because they can provide regular contact with providers who can offer disease management, prevention and healthy eating advice. It’s not a replacement for face-to-face care, but some studies show that patients had lower A1C levels and lower blood pressure after a series of e-visits.

Technology requirements

All you need is a computer, smartphone or iPad to connect with a provider. Some services use video so you can see each other. Specialized equipment is used for remote monitoring of blood sugar levels, blood pressure and heart rate, so ask if that’s available or necessary in your case.

Insurance coverage

More and more health plans are covering virtual visits. In fact, 34 states require that insurers cover them. Some states still require that patients see a doctor before a virtual visit. Similar co-pays usually apply, so savings are not likely — except of personal time and gas money. More restrictions around virtual care exist for Medicare patients. Medicare tends to limit e-visits to rural areas, and patients can’t be at home, but rather at health clinics or other facilities.

Want to learn more about telemedicine? Read “Telemedicine for Rural Residents?”

Paul Wynn

Paul Wynn

Paul Wynn on social media

A veteran health-care writer, Wynn has written on a wide variety of scientific and consumer trends over the past 20 years. His stories have appeared in nearly 60 magazines, including Health, Medscape, Prevention, and Today’s Caregiver. Previously, he was senior editor with Managed Care magazine. He resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with his wife and three children.

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