Telemedicine and Virtual Doctors

Do you remember when doctors were called by patients and they would actually do a home visit? Many years ago doctors were more like a family member, but times have changed.

We are living in a different era, one where a shortage of doctors is a national problem, and one where technology has become a daily helper for almost everybody, even for those who can’t visit the doctor or those who can’t go to an emergency room. Thanks to technology we are going back to the concept of having the doctor at home, but now, virtually.

Telemedicine is a reality and is an increasing practice in our country. Is not only that we don’t have enough primary care and some specialist doctors, but also that one-quarter of the population lives in rural areas where access to healthcare could be not only difficult but sometimes impossible.

So, we are talking about more than 10 million people using every year the services or virtual doctors. And by virtual doctors, we mean video chats, and video conferences with a physician using a smartphone, a computer or a tablet. Yes! Real-time conversations with doctors without the waiting room and the time that it involves.

Of course, there are certain limitations. Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, is perfect for monitoring chronic conditions or situations, or for minor issues’ diagnosis and prescription. It’s so popular and useful that now some health insurance companies are offering telehealth as part of their portfolio of services and plans.

Different studies have shown the benefits provided by this practice, especially in older adults, people with serious conditions limiting their mobility, patients with mental health problems, and residents of rural areas.

If you think that Telehealth or Telemedicine could help you, consult your health insurance company and ask about it.

The future is here to bring us a benefit from the past, have your doctor at home.

The Opioid Epidemic and Our Responsibility as Patients

It’s not a secret. The headlines are all over the place: TV, radio, magazines, newspapers and social media are talking about the opioid epidemic that is killing thousands of Americans. We hear the stories, sometimes we know someone who lost a loved one due to an overdose, but how many times do you think about your own responsibility on this epidemic?

Probably never. If the tragedy doesn’t knock on our door, there is not a real reason to look at it in depth, right? Well, no. Reality is that according to statistics revealed in 2016 by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, in 2015 we had 20.5 million Americans 12 or older with a substance use disorder. From them, 2 million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers.

To continue with the numbers, between 1999 and 2010, 48,000 women died of prescription pain reliever overdoses. That was 7 years ago and unfortunately, the numbers have increased.

Yes, it is a declared epidemic and it involves all of us. Why? Because we all are patients, and at some point we may need, use or be prescribed pain relievers or painkillers. According with the CDC and other experts, it is important to be informed, to talk to your doctor, to ask all the questions you need to be answered, and to be proactive as a patient while in treatment.

Pain relievers are prescribed not only to adults, but also to children after a sports injuries, or a surgery. While doctors and medical personnel are aware about the risks of opioid medicines, it is also important that parents and patients understand the importance of following the physician’s instructions, and also the importance of understanding the consequences that opioids might have if they are misused.

A big portion of addicts to heroin started using painkillers and developed the addiction due to misuse of those medicines. It is not about doubting your doctor’s recommendations, or questioning your treatment, it is about knowing and understanding how those medicines work, what they do to your body and, at the end of the day, it is probably about you making the decision to use them or not, or to ask for possible alternative treatments to your doctors.

The patient-doctor relationship should be a two-way one. Information is the key and this one in particular should be openly shared with our families, children, and other people. Don’t be afraid of asking more to your doctor. The next time you see your physician, start that conversation.