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What is telemedicine? Virtual doctor visits skyrocket due to coronavirus crisis

The need for social distancing has pushed telemedicine to the healthcare forefront.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The coronavirus pandemic is causing a dramatic increase in the use of a technology healthcare providers have pushed for years.

Telemedicine, or virtual doctors visits through video or phone calls are increasing dramatically right now due to the need for social distancing.

Officials at The Toledo Clinic are seeing most patients, especially senior citizens, via telemedicine appointments due to current social distancing guidelines.

"What you basically need is just a smartphone with a camera," Toledo Clinic medical director Dr. Moshir Jacobs, M.D. said.

Jacobs said his own use of the platform as exploded in just the last three weeks.

"I can diagnose may I would say 70 to 75% of medical conditions by televisits," he added.

Jacobs stressed that number goes up even more when you factor in things like blood pressure or heart rate numbers you can obtain from smartwatches and other devices. 

Televisits are covered by most insurance and Medicaid. Those without insurance usually have to pay around $50 out of pocket.

Most televisits work the same way for man providers. You'll receive an invite via text message or an email from your provider and upon clicking that from your smartphone or computer, your physician will appear on screen via your video camera.

Jacobs said this has been vital in reaching his patients, especially older ones during this time. And this situation has changed how he will approach future appointments after this pandemic.

"I'm going to be using this way, way more in the future," he said, "when this is all over than what I was planning to."

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