When there is Telemedicine, why do I need a PCP?

What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is simply using technology to connect doctors to patients. By using a computer or a phone patients can be treated anywhere, whenever needed. There are several different platforms that allow safe communication. The physician or organization will share the platform of choice with the patient prior to the visit.


Telemedicine Visits
Telemedicine is a convenient method for patients to communicate with physicians quickly and effectively. This has been especially true during the covid-19 pandemic as we all seek ways to
limit direct interaction. However, telemedicine visits should not replace your primary care doctor.


Why do I still need a Primary Care Physician (PCP)?
Telemedicine does have it’s limitations and can be harmful when used inappropriately. Doctors cannot fully examine patients when utilizing telemedicine. As a result, things may be missed or the severity of a condition may be underestimated. Telemedicine with a physician who has seen and examined you in the past, and knows your history can substantially reduce this risk. In addition, patients taking medications for chronic conditions should have vitals, a physical exam, and specific tests periodically to confirm that it is safe to continue medications. Furthermore, preventive screening including screening for various cancers need to be done with
a primary care physician in person.


Direct Primary Care (DPC) and Telemedicine
Many DPC memberships include use of telemedicine to communicate easily and conveniently with patients. However, its use in direct care is different. Though it may be used prior to a face
to face visit, it is often in anticipation of an upcoming in-person visit. More commonly, telemedicine is used for follow up visits after a thorough evaluation. For example, for close follow up on high blood pressure or diabetes management. It can also be used for treatment of acute conditions such as uncomplicated urinary tract infections, skin conditions and upper respiratory illnesses by a doctor who already knows your history.


Benefits of Telemedicine with Direct Primary Care
In addition to telemedicine being safe, convenient, effective and at no additional cost in the direct care setting; patients have access to proper follow up with the same doctor in-person if
needed. In contrast to telemedicine visits done online, DPC doctors can order tests if appropriate and patients can often avoid expensive urgent or emergency room visits. This allows the patient to get things done in a timely manner and at an affordable cost. It also allows the doctor to have the relevant tests in time for a follow up visit. Telemedicine is a great tool in modern day medicine, saving time and allowing easy communication especially when used in the appropriate setting such as with direct primary care.


Adelola Ashaye, M.D., InTouch Primary Care

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