The Doctor Will Skype You Now

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By Lisa Larkin, MD, FACP, NCMP, IF

There’s no limit to what our devices can connect us to these days. Curated new wardrobes, targeted fitness plans, personalized vitamins, specialized beauty supplies—we can get it all delivered with a click.

Could our screens connect us to better health, too?

Well, yes and no.

The Rise of Telehealth

“Telehealth” or virtual visits have long helped doctors see patients who otherwise could not make it into the office. Patients with physical limitations, who live in rural areas, or who have difficulty arranging transportation or childcare have benefitted from the ability to schedule videoconferences with their doctors for some time.

But now, with expanding technology and video capabilities, a wider range of patients are interested in trying virtual healthcare. And, a wider range of providers are interested in offering patients select telehealth services.

Right for Midlife?

The potential benefits of virtual visits are easy to see. They are convenient. Additionally, some people might feel more comfortable discussing health issues in their home environment than scheduling a visit at a doctor’s office.

For these reasons, several studies have reported high patient satisfaction following virtual visits. These studies have also attempted to determine quality of care delivered via telehealth, but no conclusions on quality have been reached.

For now, the key is knowing when telehealth is most beneficial.

It might seem straightforward for say, a woman experiencing symptoms related to midlife to decide to see an online provider who is promoting methods to ease those very symptoms. However, medicine is not always straightforward.

Midlife women’s health affects many parts of the body, and the interplay between systems in flux affects every woman differently. Even beyond a physical examination, a thorough and ongoing dialogue between patient and provider is needed to form a relationship that will set a woman up for good health during her midlife and beyond.

For those with established relationships, telehealth can be a helpful tool, but it does not replace finding a provider who understands the comprehensive, unique picture of your health.

The Right Provider for You

Make sure to choose a provider who has the appropriate credentials and oversight, who listens to you to develop a whole-person view of your health, and who you feel comfortable seeing.

Even with new telehealth tools—these remain the most important elements to connect you to better health.

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