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Choosing Telemedicine or a Visit to Your Doctor's Office

By Morgan Bahm, family nurse practitioner, Samaritan Internal Medicine – Corvallis

Since the emergence of COVID‑19, changes in federal regulations have allowed Samaritan doctors and patients to embrace telemedicine as a convenient way to meet a variety of health care needs. Using a computer or smartphone, telemedicine can be a good choice for conditions such as allergies, asthma, bronchitis, colds and flu, headache, rashes, insect bites, pink eye, urinary tract infection and more.

In addition to in-person visits, Samaritan clinics offer telemedicine, and most insurance plans cover these visits the same as they would for an in‑office visit. Check with your health insurance provider to see if telemedicine is a covered benefit.

When you call to schedule a visit, you can ask if a telemedicine appointment would be right for you and your current health concerns.

Telemedicine should not replace all in‑person visits. Your primary care provider can learn a lot about your health from seeing you face‑to‑face and some health care concerns require the doctor to see you and do a physical examination.

Symptoms such as pain in your abdomen, sudden swelling of a limb, sudden weight gain or a strange lump may require a visit to your doctor’s office. And of course, if you have a life‑threatening emergency, such as symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, call 911 immediately.

Though some visits for chronic disease management work well via telemedicine, if you have new or worsening symptoms you will likely need to see your doctor in person. The best rule of thumb is to ask which kind of visit will be right for you when you call to make your appointment.

Each doctor‑patient relationship is unique — your doctor can help you decide whether you should come into the office or choose telemedicine.