It’s impossible to count all the ways the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has altered our day to day lives. From working remotely to homeschooling, many of our daily activities have drifted over to the virtual arena.
Several months into the COVID-19 pandemic and a constellation of words, terms, and phrases have entered our everyday language to help us make sense of everything that’s going on, and to stay safe and informed during these uncertain times. Among the most common terms that we hear today are telemedicine or telehealth, but there is still a lot of confusion about what these services are and who can – or should – use them.
What is telehealth?
Telehealth, also called telemedicine, is the utilization of technology to provide healthcare services. It can include real-time video visits, secure phone consultations, and any other service that can be delivered virtually (like online test results).
The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has brought telemedicine to the center stage, but the idea of connecting with a healthcare provider for a medical consultation remotely has been gaining popularity in America for the past few years.
The convenience of telemedicine is making it an increasingly popular alternative to in-person visits. With a telemedicine appointment, you can talk to your doctor from the comfort of your own home, without having to take time off work to sit in a waiting room for hours. Some doctors also conduct telemedicine appointments outside regular business hours, making it even more convenient for busy people.
It also gives you access to information and specialists that you may not have been able to access otherwise. Just by having an internet connection and a smart device, people are now able to consult with out of state practitioners, which is a major advantage for those not living near a specialist or that live in rural parts of the country.
Telemedicine for migraine patients
While telemedicine has become significantly more available and convenient as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, migraine researchers already knew that at-home appointments are a feasible, cost-effective alternative to in-office follow-up visits.
In 2017, a research study published in Neurology found that for migraine patients, seeing a neurologist through telemedicine can be as effective as seeing them in person. The study, conducted in Norway from 2012 to 2015, involved over 400 people who had been referred by their doctors to a neurologist for non-acute headaches. Half of the participants had a regular office visit with their neurologist. The other half had their consultation via video.
At the end of the study, the investigators found that telemedicine appointments were not only shorter than regular office visits (38.8 vs. 43.7 minutes), but the outcomes were equal for the in-person and telemedicine consultations.
Another study with 45 participants found that telemedicine was a feasible alternative to in-office visits after conducting 89 successful virtual migraine follow-up visits over the course of a year.
Making the most out of your telemedicine appointment
Being prepared will let you make the most out of your virtual visit. Here are some tips:
- Contact your health insurance provider to make sure your plan covers your appointment.
- Gather all essential information to have it on hand during the appointment. Essential information can be things like:
- Your medical history (if you are seeing the doctor for the first time)
- A list of any symptoms you may be having
- A list of medications you take
- Your headache diary
- Consider technical aspects (what platform will be used for the visit, how do you access it, etc.).
- Write down questions to ask.
- Find a quiet, private place to sit down. If you are doing a video consultation, make sure the area is well-lit and has a strong internet connection.
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