Telemedicine uses telecommunications technology to remotely diagnosis and treat patients at a distance. It has been used by health care professionals for some time but has become more common in the last decade as more people own computers and smart devices with video conferencing capabilities. Today, over half of all U.S. hospitals use some form of telemedicine.

How does it work? Patients use their smartphone or computer to schedule an appointment with a health care provider and then discuss their symptoms over the phone or via video chat. Providers are often able to make a diagnosis, recommend treatment or even write prescriptions remotely. Consequently, telemedicine has become a popular alternative to in-person doctor visits.

For patients, some advantages of telemedicine include:

  • Increased access to health care professionals for those who live in remote areas or have mobility issues. Telemedicine opens up a wider network of medical professionals available to you.
  • Greater convenience and efficiency. Using telemedicine can limit or eliminate the need to take time off of work or school to see the doctor. Patients can simply schedule an appointment between meetings or on a lunch break. Some school nurse stations now offer telemedicine as a faster a way to diagnose children who become sick at school.
  • Saving time, money and effort. Who wants to drive to the doctor’s office or undergo an expensive emergency room visit when they’re already sick? Telemedicine allows patients to skip the trip and receive a diagnosis from the comfort of home.
  • Decreased exposure to other sick patients in the waiting room or at an urgent care facility.

For Trinity HealthShare members, telemedicine is a great option for immediate access to health care. It is a free service for members and their families, available 24/7 and 365 days per year. All programs offer unlimited telemedicine visits with no consultation fees.

Trinity HealthShare members can access FirstCall Telemedicine online at FirstCallTelemed.com or by calling 866-920-DOCS (3627). Contact information for FirstCall Telemedicine also can be found on your member ID card.

It is important to note that not all cases can be treated via telemedicine. In-person doctor visits are valuable and necessary in certain situations, and telemedicine is best used to supplement to these visits. Calling 911 or visiting the emergency room is always recommended for serious illnesses or injuries.

For minor conditions, however, an in-person doctor visit with an established patient may not be necessary. In these cases, telemedicine saves patients time and money.