Tom's Take Blog

March 4, 2015

Can a phone-based doctor consultation (telemedicine) really be as effective as a face-to-face visit?

It’s been quite the progression, hasn’t it? Think back to the time when most traditional doctor visits consisted of house calls. Then we moved to a clinic setting where the patient traveled for care and today we’re re-entering another period of at-home care, but it’s now of the remote, electronic-based variety.


Telemedicine is a great advancement. Like most leaps forward though, it doesn’t work for every situation. I can think of some instances – urgent care and physical therapy first come to mind – when there’s no real substitute for that face-to-face visit. But there are just as many scenarios related to primary care issues where telemedicine is proving to be a smart alternative. I’ve dialed in myself when traveling for work and felt those miserable annual sinus symptoms coming on. How convenient to be able to call from my hotel, have a provider look up my medical history and get the prescription needed sent in right over the phone! Other examples? Think of the illnesses that crop up after hours or in the middle of the night and the thought of not being able to get in for a next-day appointment. Or what if you live several miles from the nearest clinic and are dealing with another episode of a recurring condition? It’s not always so easy or convenient to arrange that in-person visit.


Reports show that 66% of unnecessary doctor and emergency room visits can be avoided with a phone or online consultation. On top of convenience, many telemedicine services also receive high ratings. The one we use at Cypress, Teladoc, has a 96% physician satisfaction rate based on a member survey. With a number this high, I’d say these digital-based consultations are pretty darn effective.

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