Have you ever tried making a same-day doctor’s appointment? It’s not easy, especially if you live in a rural area. That’s why more and more Floridians have started using telemedicine. If you’re among these people, a new bill in the Florida Senate could prove a blessing–but a mixed one.

The telemedicine bill would allow HMOs and insurance companies to cover out-of-state providers. In turn, Floridians would gain access to more providers, making it faster to talk to someone, get diagnosed, and get a prescription. But the doctors writing prescriptions online may not be as careful as those you would see face-to-face.

Telemedicine has its risks

Regulators and academics have warned that telemedicine could lead to an increased rate of medical malpractice suits. While this does not yet appear to be the case, telemedicine has already come under fire for a couple of reasons:

  • At least five telemedicine companies took part in a healthcare scheme that cost taxpayers $1.2 billion. The scheme involved contacting people with Medicare benefits, putting them in touch with a telemedicine physician, and then prescribing medical braces, regardless of need.
  • A study in Pediatrics found that telemedicine physicians appeared to be trigger-happy with their prescriptions. They prescribed antibiotics for more than half of the children they saw for acute respiratory infections, compared to only 31% for children seen in-person.

Telemedicine has been growing rapidly for years, and as it continues to grow, more patients will use it. However, it is important for patients to understand that the platform has its risks.

Use telemedicine wisely

No one wants you to wait a week to see a doctor to refill your medication or to get treatment for a low-risk health problem. In such cases, telemedicine might serve you better than a trip to the doctor. But for bigger health issues–those with greater stakes or where it’s important for your doctor to understand your medical history–there’s no substitute for an in-person visit. It’s your health, and you want to do everything you can to protect it.