The doctor will see you now. On your smartphone.

All it takes is a webcam and an internet connection. You can use your smartphone, tablet or desktop. And in about 10 minutes flat, you can be done with your doctor’s appointment.

No taking off work, fighting traffic, paying parking fees or losing your car in a multi-story garage. No arranging child or elder care, or lost wages. Plus, you can avoid exposure to waiting room pathogens, or spreading your germs to others.

Saving money. Saving time. Reducing infection risk.

That’s the gift of today’s telemedicine. It provides remote visits between patients and providers. It’s available now for a number of our Houston Methodist Primary Care Group and Specialty Physician Group physicians.

“Telemedicine allows patients to connect to providers anywhere they desire, and will give them the opportunity to really improve their health, without taking much time out of their day,” said Dr. Joshua DeFriece, a primary care physician in Cypress who sees some patients via telemedicine.

Appointments best suited for primary care telemedicine include chronic illness management and urgent care — things like coughs, colds and urinary tract infections. But surgeons also are getting in on it, conducting postop telemedicine appointments to check wound healing.

And sometimes, a patient does need 911. Dr. DeFriece has started some telemedicine visits where his clinical observation picked up on a patient’s chest pain, shortness of breath or severe abdominal pain. In these cases, he’s immediately advised them to call 911.

Reaching medically underserved communities.

Rich in oilfields, the Permian Basin of west Texas lacks primary care physicians. And Midland isn’t alone in its plight. Texas ranks 45th in the nation in number of physicians for the population, and the need for primary care is continuing to expand, according to the Texas Medical Association.

Telemedicine can help meet that need. Recent state legislation is paving the way for Texas physicians to care for patients remotely. Until now, telemedicine was a limited tool for Texas medically unserved areas, as the law required the first visit in the office.

“There can be somebody in rural Texas who’s not near any kind of physician, who actually could now establish with me, and I could manage their chronic care from many miles away,” Dr. DeFriece said. “We’re actually going to see a lot more patients have access to care who may not have had it in the past.”

Managing chronic illness.

Getting chronically ill patients more involved in their care makes a difference. And telemedicine makes it a lot easier.

Some patients manually enter their blood pressure and glucose readings into Houston Methodist MyChart using their computer, phone or tablet. But many devices interface directly with MyChart and automatically enter those readings.

“A couple weeks later, I can follow up with the patient, review all of their blood sugar readings, make adjustments to their dosages, and they never even have to leave their home for all this to happen,” he said.

What’s next.

“In the same way that once a thermometer was a novel object to have in your home, I envision in the future that we’ll see many more connected devices, such as digital stethoscopes, otoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, glucometers and heart monitors,” Dr. DeFriece said. “Even EKG machines will be in most patients’ medicine cabinets.”

Move over, aspirin. The future needs some space.