Is telemedicine the future of healthcare? COVID-19 has proven that telemedicine and the need for digital healthcare through mobile and online management is more pressing than ever but getting access to a provider isn’t always easy.
The majority of the news we see in our feeds every morning revolves around the COVID-19 crisis and how it is negatively impacting society as we know it. However, behind the health, economic, and societal impacts this virus is having, COVID-19 is shaping how we manage our lifestyles from home—healthcare included. Telehealth has seen a surge in demand since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, with telehealth platforms like Zipnosis seeing a 3600% increase in use of their services.
Telemedicine was already on its way to becoming a dominant alternative to traditional in-office or clinic visits, but now millions of Americans are looking to their phones and computers to connect with a doctor for everything from prescription refills to chronic illness management without having to leave home. The problem? As numerous platforms, providers, and clinics have flooded the digital market, it can be extremely difficult to find quality care that fits a patient's healthcare needs or financial situation.
A simple Google search for "telemedicine" will give a user with some of the top primary care platforms, but for those seeking specialized care such as pediatrics or mental health—this is not a solution. Specialized directories for telemedicine platforms aren’t much better, with many being complicated or leading to broken chatbots. JOY MD ™ founder Henry Camacho saw a big problem with this broken system and designed a solution.
“Telemedicine and digital medicine have so much potential to change the way we treat and manage our health,” Camacho says. “But if patients can’t access the platforms that are specific to their needs, we are stalling progress.”
JOY MD ™ has created an online finder to connect patients with the best providers in the specialties they are searching for. The finder allows patients to search by condition or specialty and features providers and platforms that are offering specialized services during COVID-19. This finder is intended to be an initial step in helping simplify the digital healthcare process for both people and providers.
“We have suddenly seen telehealth platforms go viral in the midst of an unprecedented crisis,” Camacho says. “While providers are realizing the necessity of getting on these platforms, it is just as crucial that patients are able to access them. My goal is to streamline the process so that every patient can get the care they need while remaining safe.”
When building the finder and selecting providers, Camacho focused on specific healthcare needs that need specialized management.
“Managing your mental health or trying to get access to fertility solutions isn’t something that should be done through telemedicine platforms that specialize in primary or urgent care,” Camacho says.
Fortunately, specialized healthcare doesn’t have to be grouped into generalized treatment when it comes to digital health. JOY MD ™ ‘’s finder includes providers and platforms that are designed for multiple conditions and specialties including:pediatrics, women and men’s health, mental health, primary and urgent care,fertility, orthodontics, prescription management, gut health, addiction, eyecare, and more.
One of the main benefits of telehealth is how it allows patients to be included in their care. With more access to their data and health history from their devices and the ability to contact a provider in real-time, a new era of healthcare is on the horizon. If you have a phone or computer, doctors are a few clicks away—an advantage that many think will make telemedicine something that remains after the COVID-19 crisis.
In March, the government expanded telemedicine benefits to those with Medicare, but it’s unclear if the shift will remain. While many private insurance companies offer telehealth benefits, access to specialized care can become complicated and for those without insurance the entire process can feel daunting.
Camacho believes that quality digital healthcare isn’t something that should have to cost a fortune, which is why JOY MD ™’s list was created with providers who offer affordable or low-income care. The directory includes platforms like Virtuwell, a telemedicine provider that offers treatment and follow up without insurance for $49.
“We have a long way to go when it comes to making telemedicine accessible to everyone,” Camacho notes. “Many of our most vulnerable—the elderly, low-income communities, or those with chronic conditions don’t have access to insurance but need specialized care. It’s promising to see that there are providers who are trying to meet the demand for every patient.”
So, what does the future of telemedicine look like afterCOVID-19 restrictions loosen and offices begin to open up again? Telemedicine was already a growing market, but many providers had concerns over the viability of working off of digital platforms and getting paid. But with the unprecedented arrival ofCOVID-19, patients and providers have been forced to stay home, and platforms have had to be quick to offer solutions. It’s a shift that could have lasting effects on the traditional office visit.
Telemedicine won’t replace clinic or in-office care, but it can change the way we look at and manage healthcare. What’s more, is that doctors can utilize telehealth platforms to supplement in-office visits through follow up, prescription management, and helping patients take charge of their health. Platforms like One Medical integrate the in-office experience and virtual care, by offering patients the option to schedule same day appointments in-person, chat with a provider on their app, renew prescriptions, and utilize video visits when needed.
Telemedicine was already here, COVID-19 was just the catalyst it needed to break through the barriers of the patient-provider disconnect that was a major concern.
“There were already so many who needed access to care from home,” Camacho reflects. “If you wake up with a sick child at 3 in the morning, you should be able to access a doctor in minutes, not have to drive and wait at the nearest emergency room.”
Specialized telemedicine platforms solve a major gap that has long existed in the digital healthcare community, the key to their success, according to Camacho: “simple connections.”