Good Versus Bad Telemedicine: 6 Things to Look for When Choosing a Telemedicine Provider
Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team
With all of the limitations the pandemic put on social interactions, healthcare workers had to get creative when figuring out how to continue delivering care to patients. The answer: telemedicine. While this concept is not new, it has certainly become more popular as a means to safely see patients without having to meet in person.
Even though the pandemic is starting to wind down, this might not be the last of what we now know to be telemedicine.
What is telemedicine in the United States?
Telemedicine is a term used to refer to the provision of healthcare from doctor to patient using electronic means like text messages, phone calls, video conferences, or emails. Think about it like having your doctor on demand.
How does telemedicine work?
Telemedicine is designed to be convenient, so that any individual can access treatment from the comfort of their home. Some healthcare providers may have an app (i.e. Amwell and Teledoc) or a website/portal for patients to utilize as a means to communicate with their physicians. Once they log in, a patient can send messages, request prescriptions, and/or book appointments. Providers may also choose to conduct visits via video conference or phone calls. These typically entail logging onto a secure browser to speak privately with patients.
What is telemedicine used for?
Telemedicine is used to easily and effectively bring patients medical care from wherever they are. This is especially helpful for patients who do not live within close proximity to a hospital or other healthcare facility.
It should be noted that telehealth appointments are not meant to replace in-person visits; if anything they complement each other. Telemedicine is ideal for services that do not require physical face-to-face interaction. This can range from mental health services to follow-ups.
Getting the best telemedicine
With COVID-19, more people are turning to telemedicine to decrease the risk of getting an infection from going into the office/hospital. Thanks to recent technology advancements, it is now easier than ever to receive this care. However, not all telemedicine services are created equal. Here are some important qualities to take into account when choosing your telemedicine provider.
First and foremost, it’s important to be aware of the experience a provider has in the area where you’re seeking help. For instance, if you’re experiencing discomfort related to digestion, you should ideally seek a provider who has specialized training in gastrointestinal health. As a general rule of thumb, a doctor with at least 10 years of experience listed is a good sign.
If you can’t find a provider who specializes in exactly what you’re looking for, you can find others who have similar areas of expertise. Even if their main practice is not in the area of concern, they may still have extensive knowledge on the topic. For example, Dr. Sophia Yen, the CEO & co-founder of Pandia Health is trained in reproductive health, but also received her MPH in Maternal Child Health.
Transparency in Telemedicine: Do they list their doctors?
You have the right to know the providers that could be treating you, including their area(s) of expertise and their training (Where did they go to medical school? Are they board certified? How long have they been practicing). If a website only shows the Chief Medical Officer and not the providers, you may want to avoid that practice.
As a patient, there is peace of mind in knowing who has your health in their hands. Having a doctor’s biography listed on a website is important in establishing trust with your doctor — a doctor’s background is also good to know especially if you have specific medical concerns. Transparency provides comfort and helps to establish trust between the healthcare professional and the patient.
Quality Care: Fast is not Best
When it comes to your health, you want to see someone who cares as much about your health as you do. A good and thorough doctor asks questions, takes time to understand the issues you’re having, addresses any questions you may have, and gives you their undivided attention. When a doctor is eager to move quickly through your appointment, the quality of care may suffer.
An important component of top-notch care is a doctor that is willing to say, “No, this is not safe for you.” Seeing a doctor that will give you anything you want puts you at risk — getting what you want versus getting what you need can be different. It is better to see a doctor who will tell you when something is not in your best interest.
Providers should ask for your consent either verbally or electronically before proceeding with care. This might entail a debrief on what you can expect from them, how their telemedicine system works, the limitations and benefits of telemedicine, how problems can be troubleshooted, and your responsibilities as a patient. Seek out a provider who lays out all of your options rather than one who is more interested in earning the most money for their company (profit motive).
Health-Focused vs. Money-Focused
In general, a profit-focused telemedicine practice will push the more profitable option like the one-year birth control ring versus the one-month birth control ring. Furthermore, it’s important to note whether the provider gives you options or just pushes one method. This way, you can get a better idea of how invested they are in your best interest versus their bottom line. Unfortunately, some providers simply want to make the most money off their patients as opposed to providing the best care. Knowing what to look for when it comes to choosing a telemedicine service can save money down the line.
Look for a company that has a Founder/CEO who has taken the Hippocratic oath (“Do No Harm”) like Pandia Health! Those who take shortcuts typically don’t provide the best care possible. It is also a good sign when the Founder/CEO of the telemedicine practice is a doctor. If their career is in law or business, their company could be very profit-driven and not as care-focused.
At Pandia Health, our CEO Dr. Sophia Yen says, “We will always tell you what’s best for your health, even if it’s not best for our bottom line. We will make money, but we don’t have to do it by pushing products you don’t need or pushing 2nd rate care.” We also try to save you money — birth control pills are “FREE” (no copay, no deductible) for those with insurance providers under the Affordable Care Act. If you do not have insurance, most birth control pill packs cost as low as $15/pack. However, if you cannot afford to pay that price, Pandia Health has a need-based Birth Control Fund that you can apply to.
Up To Date on the Latest & Greatest
Healthcare professionals should be up to date on the latest and greatest data within medicine. For example, your doctor should know that 30mcg estrogen is best for bone health in individuals under the age of 30 and that Plan B and its generics are not good for people with a BMI of 26 or greater. If you notice that a provider is unable to answer questions related to your concerns, you may want to seek another practice. *Note: If a provider does not have expertise in all areas, it doesn’t mean they’re bad at their job. Instead, they might be more knowledgeable about different topics based on the education and training they received.
Data analytics allow physicians to recognize patterns and make efforts for prevention if need be. Telemedicine providers should be well-versed in this practice in order to provide the most effective treatment for their patients. Additionally, they should abide by HIPAA (a.k.a not sharing private medical records) at all times. Having trust in your provider will likely allow you to feel comfortable sharing information, which will in turn, help them get to know you better.
While website design might not sound like an important component in telemedicine, it can make a difference in the overall user experience. More specifically, a website that is easy to navigate will likely attract more customers. If you are unable to find what you need from a certain provider, it’s okay to look elsewhere.
Pandia Health’s homepage is a great example of a clean and simple homepage. Our main service is clearly presented along with a button that can connect patients to said services.
How to get birth control online?
Getting birth control online is now as easy as ever! To sign up with Pandia Health, simply go to our website and click on the “Get Started” button. From there, all you need to do is fill out our online health form, which gets reviewed by one of our expert doctors. The doctor who receives your form will write you a prescription for the birth control method that best fits your lifestyle and health needs based on the information you provided. The last thing to do is sit back and relax while your prescription makes its way to your mailbox.
Get Pandia Peace of Mind
At Pandia Health, we prioritize our patients. We are a company you can trust to utilize for safe, productive telehealth services. As the ONLY women-led, doctor-led company in birth control delivery, we pride ourselves in providing expert care for your reproductive health needs.
Don’t forget to sign up for our FREE delivery service, so you can #SkiptheTrip to the pharmacy and no longer need to worry about running out of birth control. We also write prescriptions for patients who live in AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, MI, PA, NV, TN, WA, and WY. If you live in one of these states and want to start or change your birth control, schedule an online consultation with one of our doctors. *Note: We only prescribe the pill, patch, and ring.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between telehealth and telemedicine?
Telehealth is the blanket term used to describe the use of technology to provide any healthcare service. Telemedicine is the subset of telehealth that specifically refers to the provision of medical-related health care services via technology.
What are three different types of telemedicine?
The three types of telemedicine are: store-and-forward (asynchronous), remote patient monitoring, and real-time (synchronous).
- Store-and-forward = patient records are sent to a provider from them to interpret
- Remote patient monitoring = the provider monitors a patient’s vital signs from a distance
- Real-time telemedicine = communication with a provider via phone or video
Can I get prescriptions using telemedicine?
Yes! One of the benefits of telemedicine is the ease at which you can get prescriptions.
What does a patient need for telemedicine?
To be able to participate in telemedicine, a patient needs a device (preferably with a camera and microphone), a reliable and strong Internet connection, and a comfortable, private place to sit.
Does Medicare offer telemedicine?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Medicare is covering some telemedicine services. Those that are not considered telehealth for billing purposes (i.e. remote patient monitoring) are usually reimbursable.
Can telemedicine be done over the phone?
Yes! There are telemedicine services (i.e. initial consultations and follow-up appointments) that can be delivered over the phone.
Disclaimer: The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.