MILWAUKEE -- With some hospitals facing a crisis point, grappling with thousands of cases of the novel coronavirus, and trying to overcome critical shortages amid the pandemic, telemedicine, an important part of preventative care, has grown in popularity.
If you're feeling ill enough, normally, you would call your doctor to schedule an appointment, but health experts have noted telemedicine to be an important part of the fight against COVID-19.
It's been said that 90% of a diagnosis is a conversation between a caregiver and patient, but that conversation doesn't have to happen in person.
"Telehealth has always been here, even before COVID-19," said Dr. Mark Kaufman, chief medical officer with the Wisconsin Hospital Association. "Its use was expanding, but especially in this sort of pandemic period we are in, telehealth, telemedicine is especially valuable."
Telemedicine can range from a simple telephone call, to interactive visits, and face-to-face meetings over video -- the option being used for things like allergies to earaches.
"Delivering a clinical care, from one site to another, through electronic communications, is really what telemedicine, or telehealth is," said Dr. Kaufman. "It's very clinically appropriate for lots of conditions."
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government said restrictions would be loosened and access expanded for those with Medicare, with states urged to expand service to those enrolled in Medicaid and those with low incomes.
"And Medicare and Medicaid now have really expanded that, in light of the COVID-19 epidemic, in terms of what they'll pay for telehealth," said Dr. Kaufman.
The cost varies depending on the type of private health insurance you have. Some providers have begun waiving fees, so check with your provider or employer. If you don't have health insurance, you can pay out of pocket, and prices vary.
It's important to note, virtual physicians may refer you to a doctor for an in-person visit.