Telemedicine is a useful service that connects people with physicians when in-person visits may not be possible. It digitally delivers services to patients using devices like computers and smartphones. It allows patients to see and talk to their providers without being in the office. Common uses of telemedicine include follow up visits, chronic disease management, consultations, and medication management. If you live with lung disease, telemedicine can be an important part of staying healthy.
Telemedicine has grown significantly in recent years. It has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. It allows patients to avoid crowded waiting rooms and practice social distancing when infection rates may be surging. People are also able to avoid the need to drive, take the bus, or take other forms of transportation.
Is telemedicine effective?
Telemedicine is both beneficial and effective for specific services. These include behavioral health therapy, counseling patients with chronic conditions, and home monitoring for patients with chronic conditions[i]. Recent studies found it also improves access to care, reduces wait times, and provides faster treatment[ii]. While telemedicine is useful, there are still appointments that need to take place at a doctor’s office or hospital. These visits include blood work, imaging tests, and physical exams. Talk to your doctor to learn more.
How can I prepare for an appointment?
Most visits require some type of video ability. You can use any device that has audio-video capabilities and an internet connection. Devices include smartphones, computers, or tablets. After the appointment is scheduled, you’ll receive directions to log on for your visit. The physician will start the visit with a few questions to confirm your identity and will then move on to the main reason for the visit.
To prepare for your visit, follow these tips:
- Write down your questions and concerns beforehand.
- If you have an informal family caregiver, ask them to join you.
- Test drive your equipment (computer, tablet, phone) before the appointment.
- Find a quiet spot with plenty of light to take the appointment.
- Be prepared to tell your provider about your family and medical history.
- Have as many of your vital numbers on hand as possible (weight, temperature, blood pressure, etc.)
- Try to be specific when describing symptoms or signs.
- Have pen and paper handy to write down any important notes.
- Have all your medications or a current list within reach during the appointment.
Does insurance cover these services?
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) expanded telemedicine coverage for people during the COVID-19 public health emergency. These temporary expanded services allowed people to access health care services from home, across state lines, and see new doctors if needed. In November 2021, CMS approved continued coverage for some of these services through December 2023[iii]. You can read the full list online.