2. Physician resistance. The bulk of resistance comes from doctors struggling to comfortably use the new technology, but this hesitance only extends so far, says Dunmire. "At the same time, their interest has been piqued a little bit when they think about how they might begin to use this to better manage patients with chronic illnesses or be able to expand access to rural areas in particular."
3. Inadequate assessment. While having the ability to interface with your primary care physician or dentist is a major plus, certain non-verbal cues might still slip through the cracks."To me, there are no limits on how you can use telemedicine, but of course one of the cons is you cannot personally touch or feel the patient," Guy says.
Raymond Christensen, a rural family physician and assistant dean for rural health at the University of Minnesota Medical School, agrees."I think there a lot of good uses for it," he says. "I don't think you can start an IV with it. There are places where we still have to have people touching people. But it brings a higher level of care … than we've been able to provide before."
Rules regarding privacy and confidentiality apply to a telehealth setting as much as they do to one that's face to face. But telemedical consumers should be especially mindful that any information transmitted online—particularly audio, video, and images—can fall prey to hackers. It's incumbent on telehealth users to learn how to operate the technology correctly and to know their legal rights when it comes to protecting their identities online. And be respectful to your coworkers during a video visit. Minimizing a viewing pane to obscure a bleeding lesion and wearing headphones when talking with your physician show sensitivity to the reactions of others.
So, what's the bottom line? Aim to visit with your physician in-person whenever possible. But if you absolutely can't visit the office physically due to unbreakable work commitments, consider a telemedical option. Contact your primary care physician or insurance company to find out if and how these services might be available to you.
Corrected on 07/25/2012: A previous version of this story misidentified the company American Well.