Years ago, functional medicine providers, such as naturopathic physicians and holistic or integrative medicine practitioners, were not as numerous as they are now. Many integrative healthcare practitioners began to use real-time communication technology to allow more patients access to this specialized health care. After the pandemic shut down most in-person activity, this early adoption of telehealth technology proved to be a lifeline for many patients.
Functional medicine’s chronic care and prevention model, as opposed to the urgent care model, easily lends itself to remote visits.
Take, for instance, a patient that has type 2 diabetes. The pandemic may have moved them away from the protocols their practitioner gave them. A thorough health history and review of the patient’s symptoms, diet, and emotional state can easily be done via video call. Of course, blood work, which is sometimes needed to determine a change in nutrient levels, can be ordered during a virtual visit and a new protocol can be created and discussed in a subsequent follow-up visit.
The Cost of Remote Health Care:
While some think that remote health care might stop being covered, according to America’s Health Insurance Plans, an association representing approximately 1,300 health insurance plans, 26 state legislatures have created laws to require private insurance to reimburse healthcare providers for services delivered through telemedicine. And there are 10 more states looking to do the same.
For some patients, certain integrative healthcare services, whether in-person or virtual, may not be covered by their insurance plan. So, it’s always good to gather up the information about your plan and know what you will be responsible for paying before you book a telemedicine appointment.
There was a time long ago when doctors came to a patient’s home to deliver personalized health care. In some ways, that convenient and caring service has been replaced by telemedicine.
With telemedicine, there is no travel time, no need to take time off work, and no risk of exposure to any contagious disease. Telemedicine can also give your practitioner clues about your home environment, which can only aid their understanding and coordination of your care.
Many practitioners, myself included, have even been able to evaluate skin conditions, orthopedic problems (through directed appropriate maneuvers), and other health issues through virtual visits. It is my strong belief that a majority of evaluations are done by taking a good history, and often the physical exam serves to confirm the diagnosis. Also, the availability of urgent care centers for limited physical exams can be used to complete the picture if and when necessary.
The Future of Telemedicine:
The use of telemedicine is expected to grow so long as insurance plans continue to cover it. The biggest challenge is whether patients feel their needs are being met. Confidentiality is extremely important for some patients to feel comfortable with virtual visits, while other patients find the positive results of telemedicine the only proof they need to keep using this vital tool.
Copyrighted story originally published in WholeScripts Magazine Vol. 2, Iss. 3. Used with written permission.