For many Americans on the go, getting sick means more than dealing with aches and pains and feeling under the weather. For most, it can also mean having to take time off from work or school to visit the doctor — an event that most of us would consider less-than pleasant in our busy schedules.
But technology has given us an option to make the pain of getting sick a bit easier. Now, smartphone users can login to a mobile app to not only schedule their next primary care appointment, but they can also been seen and treated by a doctor — all from the convenience of the patient’s own home.
This form of medical treatment, known as cybermedicine, appeals to patients not only for its simplicity, but also for its value. Many users have found embracing a “digital doctor” ends up costing less than their usual co-pay associated with a traditional appointment. The form of treatment has proven so successful, several major hospitals and mainstream health insurers are now covering digital consultations to offset the shortage of primary care physicians. Users also cite far shorter wait times, as well as the convenience of being treated 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In 2015, there were close to 7.2 million doctor-patient video consultations, but predictions estimate this form of treatment to reach 124 million in just three years.
However, many in the medical world remain skeptical. Some organizations say cybermedicine can prevent patients from forming lasting relationships with providers — an element they feel is key to correcting the overarching issue of improved care coordination between patients and providers. Some critics also feel misdiagnoses are more common with this particular form of treatment.
A final reason the healthcare industry is opening an eye to cybermedicine is money. Predictions indicate that it could save employers around $6 billion per year. And while recent data indicates only about 385 of insurance plans cover it, 81% of carriers plan to include it in their coverage plans by 2018.
So if you’re feeling ill and are just too tired to make it off the couch, consider making your next appointment using your phone or tablet. You don’t even have to change clothes or freshen up.