Overview of Telemedicine
Have you ever looked to schedule an appointment at a medical office, only to find that the next available slot wasn’t until weeks or even months later? Or let’s say you live in a rural area and that visiting any doctor or hospital requires a lengthy trip. Is that drive worth it, if what you need is just to get a prescription updated or renewed?
Telemedicine makes it more practical to get the care you need, when you need it:
- In some cases, like with an online vision exam, literally everything can be done in any standards-based web browser.
- In others, such as setting up a remote patient monitoring arrangement with a physician, the end result can be much more convenient than going back and forth to a clinic.
Basically, telemedicine is the practice of providing remote clinical services supported by various telecommunications technologies, most often the internet. Anything from an online eye exam to the use of video conferencing technology for a consultation can qualify as telemedicine.
The U.S. healthcare system has, in recent decades, shifted many healthcare services toward telemedicine models, not only to make care more accessible and convenient for patients, but also to save money for everyone involved. Effective telemedicine can reduce the need for multiple visits and help patients avoid more expensive in-person consults.
For eyecare in particular, telemedicine is a highly efficient and cost-effective way to test your vision, renew your corrective lenses prescriptions, and receive your contacts quickly. Let’s explain a bit more about how telemedicine works, as well as answer some frequently asked questions.
How Does Telemedicine Work in Practice?
For something to count as telemedicine, it must be performed over a distance, instead of in person – hence the “tele-” prefix. Some of the most common examples include:
- Online exams and prescription renewal: Say it’s time for you to get new contacts but your prescription is expired. Rather than make the trip to a vision care provider’s retail outlet, you could take our online eye exam to get your prescription renewed by a doctor, and place your order.
- Remote patient monitoring: This practice involves keeping an eye on a patient’s physiological parameters from afar, outside a conventional medical setting. For example, an RPM sensor might get a blood pressure or glucose reading and send it to a provider.
- Video consultations: Video conferencing technology enables high-definition face-to-face meetings between doctors and patients, and between different medical professionals, from virtually anywhere. It’s a strong alternative to a normal meeting or a phone call.
- Secure image uploads: Some major health providers have enabled patients to upload self-taken medical images to a secure server. Physicians can then evaluate these items and make decisions without requiring an in-office visit.
Some of the less obvious, yet still important, forms of telemedicine include having certain test results forwarded to faraway medical providers for evaluation, or using online information resources like the popular website WebMD.
Overall, there are many possible forms of telemedicine, but in vision care the main use cases are diagnostic, namely vision testing, remote processing, and finally the prescription of the appropriate lenses and care.
What are the Main Benefits of Telemedicine?
Telemedicine closes the distance between provider and patient. By doing so, it removes some of the logistical complications of getting medical care and increases patient access, plus it can reduce certain costs and support consistently high-quality care, too.
More Reliable, Straightforward Access to Care
Telemedicine is a time-saver that’s also good for your health, eye-related or otherwise.
Need an eye exam but can’t drive to the nearest location? Want to speak with a provider without setting foot in their office? Have a busy schedule and no time to go through an in-person consultation? Telemedicine can help solve all of these problems.
Not just that, it’s easy to use in most cases. For example, to get a new contacts prescription all you need to do is follow the instructions on our site, from the comfort of your home or wherever you have internet access.
Savings on Remote Medical Services (Like Eye Exams)
Going to an in-person consultation can result in some unpredictable (and maybe higher than expected) costs. And that’s before getting into additional expenses for travel, time spent in the waiting room, etc.
Telemedicine definitely helps curb those incidentals, since you can access services from your home or anywhere else as long as you have internet connectivity. It can also provide more cost-effective care overall, since some tests can be started for free and then paid for at a fixed rate, disclosed upfront.
Health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts may also be used for many telehealth expenses, including contact lenses. Those pre-tax dollars help reduce your financial obligation.
Consistently High Quality of Care
A study of telemedicine use by Massachusetts General Hospital found that 61% of patients felt that they got the same quality of medical care from telemedicine as from in-person visits. More than 20% said that quality was actually better.
Meanwhile, nearly 80% stated that it was easier to schedule a telemedicine appointment or follow-up than a conventional visit. At its best, telemedicine combines high convenience with excellent quality and affordability.
How Popular is Telemedicine? Is it Growing?
Telemedicine grew considerably throughout the 2000s and 2010s. At the same time, its growth has been concentrated in several specific areas, and there’s still a lot of room left for expansion.
- The American Hospital Association calculated that over three-fourths of hospitals had implemented telemedicine systems by 2017, up from only 35% in 2010.
- On the other hand, Deloitte has estimated that only 25% of Americans have set up a telemedicine appointment.
- Telemedicine provider Avizia put the number even lower, at under 20%.
While telemedicine offers some significant advantages over traditional on-site models of healthcare, there are a few limitations to overcome before it becomes more widely adopted:
- Many patients aren’t aware that their providers offer telemedicine services at all.
- Some types of telemedicine have unclear pricing or aren’t covered under certain health plans.
- Individuals who haven’t tried any form of telemedicine yet may be unsure about whether it’s reliable and worth it.
Looking ahead, it’s likely that telemedicine will gradually become a more important part of the healthcare system in the near future.
The convenience it provides will appeal to many patients, while providers will look to meet patient expectations by making more services available through telemedicine. The possible cost savings and high quality of care also bode well for telemedicine’s prospects.
Telemedicine is already popular in the vision care world, where it provides a straightforward alternative to a conventional eye exam and prescription renewal. Specialists are another area in which telemedicine has gotten off to a fast start, with many respondents to the Massachusetts General Hospital survey expressing high satisfaction with those providers.
How Does 1-800 Contacts Use Telemedicine?
1-800 Contacts is committed to happy customers. So we make it as convenient as possible for you to get the contacts you need. Our online telemedicine exam is simple: You will answer a few health questions and take a simple vision test. A board-certified doctor licensed in your state will then review the results and issue a prescription within 24 hours. Then you’re all ready to order your contacts!
To learn more, you can hop on over to our main online exam page and get started right away.