Virtual medical consultations: how do they work?

When you feel unwell or have questions about your health, you usually make an appointment with your primary care provider. In after-hours situations, you will probably find yourself in an urgent care clinic. As communication technology advances your care options expand and through telemedicine services, you can receive medical advice anytime, anywhere, without leaving the comfort of your home.


The basics of telemedicine

Telemedicine began for the first time with the use of landlines. Since the 1950s, healthcare providers have been offering remote services. This allows patients to receive medical care without leaving their home, office, bedroom, or hotel, among other facilities. With the advancement of technology, telemedicine has grown to offer services in a variety of ways. This includes online portals managed by your primary doctor, video software that enables remote consultation, and applications run by companies that offer telemedicine services.

In U.S an increasing number of health insurance companies offer telemedicine services to help reduce costs and remove barriers to access. But, how does this type of service work?

The operation of this type of consultation is relatively simple given the technologies that we have today. It is like a Skype video call, we have the doctor in her office talking in front of a computer with an integrated camera and at home we have the patient, in front of another computer with a camera or maybe just a Smartphone or a Tablet.

Through telemedicine, patients can have easy virtual visits with a doctor via email, phone, video, or other devices.

Telemedicine allows you to talk about symptoms, medical problems, and more in real time. You can receive a diagnosis, learn about your treatment options, and get a prescription. When necessary, providers can even monitor medical device readings remotely to monitor their condition.


There are three common types of telemedicine:

Interactive Medicine: Also called “live telemedicine,” this is when doctors and patients communicate in real time.

Remote Patient Monitoring (Biomonitoring) – This allows doctors to monitor patients using mobile medical equipment to collect data such as blood pressure, blood sugar levels, etc.

Store and Forward – Providers can share patient health information with other health care professionals or specialists.

In Puerto Rico, with an aging population and the predictable shortage of doctors, telemedicine could be the innovation that saves health care. The question is are virtual medical consultations just as reliable as traditional consultations in doctors’ private practices?

Studies have shown that virtual care can be effective in treating common problems like a cold, acne, or urinary tract infection.

A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that, for certain routine illnesses, seeing a doctor online could be as effective as seeing a doctor in person. In the study, patients with sinus problems and bladder infections were able to obtain a diagnosis by simply updating their medical profiles with a description of their symptoms and conditions.

However, there are some doctors who are still skeptical, they argue that there is information that can be lost via phone and email. But of course, taking half a day to do a 10-minute consultation is a high price to pay when technology exists that would allow it to be done online from home or the patient’s work. It is not just comfort for some patients, such as the disabled, or who live in places far from their doctor, it takes great effort to have to move for a consultation.

Advances in Telemedicine or eHealth as it is known, include more things than virtual medical consultations, for example, there is also consultation not only with primary doctors but also consultations with specialists, psychologists, nutritionists, among others. Undoubtedly, in the coming years we will see a real revolution in the way we view patient treatment.


Clinic Cloud. (s.f.) Consultas médicas online: ¿Cómo funcionan? Recuperado el 4 de junio de 2020 de https://clinic-cloud.com/blog/consultas-medicas-online-como-funcionan/

Roberts, G. (mayo 2020). What is telemedicine? Recuperado el 4 de junio de 2020 de https://www.goodrx.com/blog/what-is-telemedicine/

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