Telemedicine: Care Where and When You Need It

The old way: You get a strange rash. You call your doctor's office for an appointment. You leave work early, sit in traffic, and then wait in the waiting room. After looking at your rash, your doctor tells you what's wrong and how to best treat it.

The new way: At home, you use your phone, tablet, or laptop to show your rash to your doctor. The doctor looks at your rash and asks questions. The doctor tells you what's wrong and how to best treat it. That's all.

Telemedicine is the use of technology to provide care and services to patients at a distant site. The need for it is growing as our society changes.

The Benefits

This service is opening up new ways for doctors to treat patients. Here are just a few:

  • People in rural places can get care.
  • People can get care without leaving their homes and spreading an illness.
  • People who travel abroad and may not speak the native language can get care.
  • Prisons can get care for inmates without bringing them to a doctor's office.
  • Providers can look for problems in a patient's home environment, such as allergens or fall hazards.
  • Family members can participate in the care of their loved ones by joining virtual visits.

The Risks

People who want to use this service should select their doctors with care to make sure that it is an available option. They will also need to ask about the security of the tools they will use to meet with their doctor.

There will be times when a doctor may still need to see a patient in person. These tools do not allow doctors to look at a problem up close or feel a bone that may be broken. Things like imaging tests and bloodwork also still need to be done in person.

Cost may be another barrier to telemedicine care. Not all insurance providers fully cover it, though an increasing number of them are beginning to do so. Check with your provider before you meet with your doctor to find out whether you will need to pay out of pocket.

Looking Forward

The way care is given is changing. People are learning to use telemedicine tools, the cost savings are rising, and its benefits have been proven.

Talk to your doctor to find out whether your next visit needs to be in person. Be sure to check with your health insurance to make sure the visits are covered. The answer to your health problems may just be a click away.


American Telemedicine Association
National Rural Health Resource Center


Ontario Telemedicine Network


Telemedicine. Medicaid website. Available at: Accessed June 7, 2021.
What is telemedicine? Children's Healthcare of Atlanta website. Available at: Accessed June 7, 2021.
What is telemedicine, exactly? American Telemedicine Association website. Available at: Accessed June 7, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 11/1/2021

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