Telehealth, or telemedicine, is a new phenomenon introduced within the last decade, and refers to visits and appointments with medical professionals virtually, through video visits, online chatting, or phone calls. Telehealth appointments are most commonly conducted on video chat, allowing face-to-face conversation without the inconvenience of visiting an office in person. The benefits of having the option of virtual visits are: getting medical advice and prescription from home while sick with a contagious illness, more accessibility to healthcare for those with mobility or transportation challenges and general convenience or preference.
While telehealth is an extremely helpful tool, it is not always the preferred method of healthcare depending on the circumstance. For instance, those with injuries or illnesses requiring a physical evaluation or X-ray will need to visit a physician in-person to ensure the best possible health assessment and care. As of now, there have been minimal limitations to what can be accomplished through telehealth, but more rules and regulations may be on the horizon. Most recently, the Biden administration has discussed the possibility of requiring an in-person doctor’s visit prior to the prescription of ADHD medication or addictive painkillers. This is in response to the current opioid crisis. In the past decade, opioid-related overdoses and deaths have steadily increased, calling for more restrictive regulations when it comes to the prescription of these drugs. Since the start of the pandemic, many patients have used telehealth frequently or even exclusively for receiving these medications.
New regulations would change the way many Americans see their doctors for prescriptions. It is still yet to be seen what changes will be made, but the main concern is for a doctor to see a patient at least for the initial prescription, with the possibility of a virtual option when it comes to refills. The potential new rules apply to drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Adderall, Ritalin, and other commonly abused medications. In addition, there may be new regulations surrounding medications such as codeine, Xanax, and Ambien.
For all the changes on the horizon for telehealth, there will still be plenty of uses for virtual visits. There has been no indication of change in how common prescriptions, such as contraceptives, antibiotics, skin creams, and more, can be filled. New regulations are only for the safety of patients and are not intended as barriers for those in need of these prescriptions. Those who prefer telehealth should continue using the services as they like until otherwise instructed by their providers. Telehealth is quickly improving and vitals can now be taken totally remotely using your phone camera for biometrics.