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Phoenix Forward

5 ways virtual health care makes access easier

Virtual health care

Open your mouth, stick out your tongue and say “ahh” … for the computer camera.

If you haven’t had a virtual checkup, you probably will soon, experts say. Health care providers are increasingly turning to online applications for everything from diagnosing patients to ordering prescription refills to allowing patients access to their medical records.

Eric Rios, information technology director at Greater Philadelphia Health Action, a nonprofit primary health care provider, and an instructor in the health information systems program at the University of Phoenix Philadelphia Campus, says the improvement in patient care is significant. He describes five ways virtual care is transforming the health system:

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Patient portals

Getting lab results from your doctor no longer requires waiting for a phone call.

Many hospitals, clinics and health insurance companies have patient web portals where you can schedule an appointment, email questions to your doctor, get medical test details and access a wide range of other personal health information. All you have to do is type a password to log on to the website.

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Geriatric care visits

With the increasing availability of webcams, older patients who can’t drive or have difficulty getting around don’t need to leave their homes to see a doctor for routine care.

“Of course, not every diagnosis can be made with a virtual visit,” Rios cautions. “But for seniors who have common symptoms, like those from a cold or flu, a virtual consultation can accomplish a lot.”

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Diabetes management

Anyone familiar with this metabolic disease knows it requires continual checking of blood glucose levels. Now there are numerous  online applications to monitor diabetes.

“With this technology, it’s simple to send your latest glucose levels to your health care provider and get instant feedback about what type of adjustments you should make to your diet or exercise,” Rios says.

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Stroke vitals testing

It’s well established that the faster a neurologist sees a stroke victim, the better the chances of recovering brain function. But neurologists are not always readily available.

Now, with online applications such as TeleStroke, when a patient is in a health care facility without stroke specialists, an on-site professional can access off-site, board-certified neurologists who can evaluate a patient’s vital signs virtually, provide a timely diagnosis and recommend treatment.

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Addiction counseling

Virtual visits will become more common in the behavioral health field, Rios predicts.

“People who come out of drug or alcohol treatment programs often need to be monitored frequently,” he explains. “If you’re having a behavior issue related to your treatment, you can easily access your counselor online and talk through your issue in real time.”

The efficiency of online access might encourage you to take advantage of talking to your counselor when you need it, Rios notes.

“There’s no checking in at reception, no waiting for your chart to be pulled,” he says, and no “sitting in an office until your name is called.”

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