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Study suggests more patients being prescribed antibiotics via telehealth

Posted at 2:20 PM, Oct 02, 2018

Telehealth is definitely a convenient way to receive medical attention when you're sick and can't get to the doctor.  But are patients getting the right dose of medications over the phone?

A new study shows that more patients are being prescribed antibiotics through telehealth than in-person. The benefits of telemedicine is the convenience. It allows doctors to diagnose and prescribe medication over video chat, smartphone app, email or even text. But, this latest study shows some potential downfalls. 

Annals of Internal Medicine looked at 13,000 telemedicine calls and found that 67 percent of them resulted in a patient being prescribed an antibiotic to treat their symptoms.   

These new findings suggest telemedicine might not be helping the efforts to curb antibiotics overuse. 

The calls that ended with a prescription for antibiotics average just over 6 and a half minutes, where the calls where no medication was prescribed last 8 minutes, which showed it takes longer for a doctor to explain why some patients don't need medication.

With the convenience of telehealth, patients may opt out of physically going to the doctor. But when is a visit necessary?

"If you have difficulty breathing, sore throat, runny nose, even a low-grade fever,” said Heather You of Denver Health. “I don't think people need to seek care generally in the first couple days that they might have those symptoms, particularly if those symptoms seem mild, but if it's something that is not going away or they have difficulty breathing or an underlying immune condition, they should come in."

Telemedicine may be helpful, but if a prescription is prescribed too quick over the phone or in person, don't be afraid to speak up.