Telehealth vs. In-Office Appointments
In case you’re unfamiliar, telehealth (aka telemedicine) is the use of technology to provide and support healthcare at a distance, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). That can mean a wide range of things, including two doctors talking to each other on the phone to coordinate a patient’s care, or you communicating with your doctor over text, email, phone, or video. (Related: How Technology Is Changing Healthcare)
Whether or not you’ll see your doctor virtually or IRL usually depends on the individual practice’s protocol and the patient. After all, there are only so many examinations you can do effectively over phone or video. And while there is, in fact, official guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), it’s a bit vague.
In their official statement, “Implementing Telehealth in Practice,” the organization recognizes the growing importance of telehealth and, thus, emphasizes how important it is for practitioners to “be mindful of” things such as optimal security and privacy and ensuring the necessary equipment. From there, ACOG cites a systematic review that suggests telehealth can be helpful for prenatal monitoring of blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and asthma symptoms, breastfeeding help, birth control counseling, and medication abortion services. However, ACOG also acknowledges that there are plenty of telehealth services, including video chats, that have yet to been extensively studied “but may be reasonable in an emergency response.”