MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Waiting rooms across South Florida have been filled recently with flu patients.
So what do you do if you have a health issue or question, but don’t want to expose yourself to the virus?
Or maybe it’s after hours and you’re not sure if your problem warrants a trip to urgent care or the ER?
All you need to do is grab your phone.
Dr. Tina Carroll Scott is one of a growing number of healthcare providers turning to TeleHealth to treat her patients at the South Miami Children’s Clinic.
“I think it’s just the natural next step for medicine. We need to meet patients where they are and this is what they’re asking for,” Dr. Scott told CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana.
Through the “Medici” app, Dr. Scott can either text, talk or video chat with patients.
Patients can safely upload their medical history, and photos, and the doctor can provide answers and advice on the spot.
“It’s taken my practice to the next level. They can text me. They can upload photographs. If I need to take it to another level as far as an audio call or video consult, I can,” Dr. Scott said. “It’s completely safe, HIPAA compliant, and secure.”
Dr. Scott says she does about 35 to 40 TeleHealth consults a week.
A Jackson Healthcare study estimated seven million patients would be turning to telemedicine by 2018, and it’s on track to become a $36.2 billion business by 2020.
Parents like Ayesha, on a recent call with Dr. Scott, are loving it.
“It’s very convenient for me. My schedule is crazy. This app is convenient,” she explained.
If your doctor doesn’t offer this type of service, it doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the technology. Other apps like “Dr. On Demand” and “PlushCare” allow you to contact a healthcare professional for a consult over the phone.
While TeleHealth may save you a trip to the doctor’s office in the short-term, another recent Health Affairs study found these “phone-a-physician” services may increase access to care, but they don’t decrease overall health care spending, as patients don’t always use it as a substitute for in-person visits.
In the case of Dr. Scott’s patients, she doesn’t charge them, but other services do require a fee or co-pay from the patient.
One of the goals of this type of technology is to empower patients.
Dr. Scott says it’s definitely empowered her practice to better serve her community.
“I think its definitely improved my relationship with patients and overall care, and it’s decreased emergency room visits tremendously,” she said.
Remember, telemedicine isn’t suited for all cases.
You can’t get a full physical exam or be swabbed for certain illnesses like strep throat.
And in true emergencies, you should just go straight to the ER.
Here’s a list of some of the most popular TeleHealth apps available now.