Telehealth is for Primary Care Patients, Too
Feb 20, 2023 | Family Medicine | Share:
Although telehealth isn’t new, patients became more familiar with the concept during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many patients had their first virtual doctor visit during this time and found it to be an easy and convenient way to access healthcare.
At MedHelp, we began using telehealth visits as part of our COVID-19 testing protocol. But telehealth can be used for so much more, both by urgent care and primary care patients.
Whether you’ve never had a telehealth appointment or you’re a seasoned pro, you may be surprised to learn the many ways primary care patients can utilize telehealth to make accessing healthcare easier than ever.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth (or telemedicine) is a way for patients to have an appointment with a doctor without having to come to a clinic for an in-person visit. Also known as a virtual doctor appointment, patients can access their doctor through a simple phone call.
Telehealth visits are convenient for both patients and providers, and they can be done from anywhere during normal telehealth hours. These appointments supplement traditional, in-clinic visits with your doctor and can enhance your healthcare experience.
Ways Primary Care Patients Can Use Telehealth
If you’ve only ever experienced telehealth as part of a COVID-19 testing protocol, you may be surprised to learn that there are several ways patients can have a telehealth appointment primary care doctor. These visits are especially helpful for patients who have an established relationship with a primary care doctor and are up-to-date on labs and annual wellness visits.
Request a Prescription Refill
Just about everyone who takes a regular prescription medication has had the experience of going to refill their medicine, only to find out that they’re out of refills. When you only have a couple of doses left, you can find yourself in a real bind: you need to see your doctor, but you can’t get in for an appointment until your medicine has already run out.
There’s no need to feel ashamed. While telehealth visits aren’t an option for refilling every medication and they can’t be used indefinitely, your primary care doctor can often prescribe a short-term refill to keep you on your medication until you’re able to come in for a traditional appointment.
You can also schedule a telehealth visit with your primary care doctor to refill other medications - even if you’re not in a scheduling bind. You can talk with your doctor and update them on how you’re doing, any changes in symptoms, and any side effects you may be having. This is especially useful for medications that you’ve taken long-term without any issues and that don’t require lab testing or a physical exam for adjustments.
For example, individuals who take antidepressants or allergy medication may be good candidates for telehealth visits for refills. Your primary care doctor can assess your status and answer any questions you may have without an in-office visit.
Discuss Lab Results
When you see your primary care doctor for an annual wellness exam, they will often order laboratory tests. These routine tests are an important part of keeping you well and allow your doctor to screen for diseases and monitor what cannot be seen in a physical exam.
Unfortunately, lab work isn’t instant. Although we can perform the testing in-house, most labs take anywhere from a few days to a week to process. All lab results will post to your patient portal and a nurse can call you to let you know that they’re in. But if you have any abnormal labs, you’ll want to discuss the results with your primary care doctor.
Rather than scheduling a separate in-office appointment to discuss your results, your primary care doctor may offer you the option of a telehealth appointment. This appointment provides ample opportunity for you to talk with your doctor, ask questions, and collaborate on a treatment plan that is informed by the data in your lab results.
Manage a Chronic Medical Condition
Those with chronic medical conditions can spend a significant amount of time in doctor’s offices. Between their primary care providers and specialists, these appointments can be exhausting and time-consuming.
Patients with chronic medical conditions may find telehealth helpful in several scenarios.
- Ask questions. As you navigate a chronic condition, you may find that you have questions or concerns. Rather than asking Google if something is normal, it’s better to ask your provider. If your question isn’t easily answered by a nurse, a telehealth appointment with your doctor can help ease your mind or make it easier to schedule an in-office appointment.
- Report changes. New symptoms can indicate the onset of a new condition or complications with your current condition. Your doctor can help you interpret any changes you may be experiencing and determine your next steps.
- Follow up with the doctor. If you’re on a new medication or treatment plan, or your doctor changes your dosing, a telehealth appointment can allow you to easily update your doctor on how you’re doing.
Telehealth is never a substitute for in-office visits with your doctors and specialists, but it can help simplify the management of your condition.
Eliminate Barriers to Healthcare
Occasionally, there are situations that can prevent a patient from being able to come into a clinic for an appointment. But we never want mobility or transportation issues to prevent a patient from getting the healthcare they need. Telehealth visits can be a way to eliminate barriers and improve patient access to their primary care doctor. While doctors can’t do everything in a telehealth visit, this visit can be a great first step.
Our providers are willing to try creative approaches to patient care. We can often collaborate with home health providers to monitor vitals. Caregivers can also bring urine or blood samples to a nearby clinic on a patient’s behalf. If needed, a patient is also able to upload photos to the patient portal. While it’s challenging to make house calls, telehealth can be a great substitute when needed.
Telehealth visits are also helpful for established patients that are out of town and need to consult with their primary care doctor. Patients who have forgotten a prescription may be able to get a short-term refill at a nearby pharmacy. A primary care doctor can also help patients determine which steps need to be taken to address an urgent care issue or recommend a doctor in the area.
Treat Certain Urgent Care Issues
While you can always walk in as an urgent care patient at any MedHelp urgent care clinic, your primary care doctor can treat certain urgent care issues with a simple telehealth appointment. While a physical exam is important for many urgent medical needs, certain issues are a great fit for a virtual doctor visit.
You can schedule a telehealth visit with your primary care doctor for issues such as:
Primary care patients can also schedule a telehealth appointment as an urgent care patient by using our online form.
Things to Remember About Telehealth
Telehealth is a convenient option for patients, but it’s not a replacement for regular in-person visits with your primary care doctor. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen your primary care doctor or you’re not up-to-date on your lab work, you should schedule an in-office visit with your provider.
Telehealth visits are designed to be easy and accessible for both patients and providers. You don’t need any special software for a telehealth visit at MedHelp; in fact, you don’t even need a smartphone. Our telehealth visits are also HIPPA compliant.
Even if you have a telehealth appointment with your primary care doctor, you may still need to come into the clinic for an exam or lab work. But if you do, your telehealth appointment will streamline and simplify your visit.
At MedHelp, it’s easy to schedule a telehealth visit with your primary care doctor. Primary care patients can request a telehealth appointment with their provider through their patient portal or by calling your local MedHelp clinic. Urgent care patients can complete our online telehealth registration form.
If you’re looking for a new primary care doctor, call at MedHelp clinic near you. We can help you find a doctor who meets your needs and fits your schedule.
While traditional house calls may be a thing of the past, did you know that telehealth is an easy way to have a virtual house call with your primary care doctor? Use your patient portal or call a MedHelp clinic near you to schedule a telehealth appointment with your primary care doctor.