Answers About Telehealth

Approximately over ⅔ of Americans now own a smartphones and ½ of healthcare providers in the U.S. use tablets or smart mobile devices in practicing medicine. You are living in the age of telehealth where the industry of medicine is experiencing rapid developments through the rise of technology.

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth (or e-health or m-health/ mobile health) is the delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunication technologies. It is using electronic tools to access and manage care remotely. It’s used in many different ways. And, it’s been around for a long time… Radiology is the place where it’s been used the most in healthcare and certainly the longest. You take a film and then some remote radiologist sitting in a dark room hundreds of miles away might read it and give you their diagnosis. But, over the past 5-10 years, what you’ve seen is an explosion of telehealth use in lots of other parts of healthcare, such as providing daily ongoing care to patients in management of chronic diseases and mental health. But wait, doesn’t your doctor need to examine you in person? That’s a common belief, but studies from the American Medical Association show that 70% of doctor visits are merely informational and can be done equally well over telephone or video. Also, blood tests and imaging technology are increasingly replacing the physical exam to further eliminate the needs for face-to-face consultations.

Why Should You Use Telehealth?

Telehealth is using today’s technology to have an appointment with a health specialist and can be held at your local hospital, at your doctor’s clinic or at home. Telehealth has many advantages for everyone, including:

Saving time

Your healthcare provider can pull up your medical information from his or her computer at home or wherever they may be, so you can be treated sooner. This helps you avoid the hassle of booking an appointment that isn’t going to happen until the following week or weeks from now. Many clinics and hospitals now offer virtual appointments via videoconferencing to accommodate your busy schedule. You can save travel time to appointments by simply booking a virtual appointment with your doctor, physician assistant or a nurse practitioner. Saving travel time can also help reduce stress and strain on loved ones who travel with you or look after family members at home.

Saving healthcare costs

By seeing your doctor or a healthcare provider via telehealth, you can save more money compared to a traditional in-office visit. Most hospitals and clinics provide mobile health apps or online patient accounts to their patients. These mobile apps and online services give greater flexibility to healthcare professionals, administrators, and patients. One of the number one benefits of these services is that you can receive more high-quality care in a cheaper way.

Protecting your personal healthcare record

When using telehealth, you have more privacy by seeing your doctor from the comfort at your home. And, your medical information is protected securely by the U.S. health care regulations, HIPAA and an electronic personal health record system (or PHR system). You can control, maintain and access your health information anytime and anywhere via a PHR app or a laptop, computer, tablet or smartphone. It is not only accessible and convenient for you but also your doctor in case of an emergency. Your doctor can quickly examine your personal health record, such as current medications, diagnoses, drug allergies and your family or primary care physician’s contact. Besides the PHR system, there are many other apps serve the same purpose of storing your other personal health information, such as vital signs (blood pressure and blood sugar levels), daily caloric intake for easier calculating and tracking, medication schedule reminders, records of your physical activities, and other health related preventative measures.

Allowing communication across the world

Communicating with a physician across the world has never been this easy with the use of telehealth. Telehealth gives you the option of being able to stay at your local hospital or clinic rather than transfer to a large hospital away from your support system. Doctors at your local hospital can invite or request a remote consultation and/or examination from another doctor who lives on the other side of the country or the world. Doctors or specialists are not always available, so in case of an emergency, a healthcare staff can video-call a specialist for an urgent patient assessment. Doing this has saved many lives, especially in critical and time-sensitive situations.

Increasing public health education

Telehealth provides health information to the underprivileged and communities that are disadvantaged from attending health and wellness classes. Underprivileged patients, who are unable to see a physician or make a doctor’s appointment, are now able to take advantage of telehealth (health mobile apps and web-based services) and do research on the internet for caring for themselves and their loved ones.

When/ Where and Who Can Use Telehealth?

At home:

Anyone who are in need of non-emergency medical care can use telehealth at home. The classic telehealth format is video-calling. You’re sitting in front of a physician or a nurse practitioner through videoconferencing, and you’re as a patient describing your symptoms, and the practitioner can make the diagnosis. Or, you may simply log into a web-based service where you are guided to complete a series of questions related to your health concerns. A nurse practitioner or a doctor then gives you your diagnosis, prescribe your medications, and provides additional medical care advice and/or home-health care alternative options. Telehealth is designed especially for people who don’t have access to physicians and nurses, for example if you live in a rural area or areas that are too far from a healthcare facility. Some common conditions that are non-emergency and can be treated via telehealth at home include:

● Cold or Cough
● Acute infections (ear infection)
● High or Low Blood Pressure
● Sore Throat
● Gastrointestinal Issues
● Rashes
● Post-Surgical Follow Up
● Prescription Refills
● Therapy and Counseling
(fitness and weight-loss)

At hospital/ clinic:

A doctor can use telehealth to communicate with another doctor, who maybe hundreds or thousands of miles away, to monitor ICU patients in a hospital. For example, a healthcare provider can take a photograph of a skin lesion, send it off, and a dermatologist is going to review it and give his or her assessment of what’s going on.

How Do You Use Telehealth?

Telehealth allows you to use it with a PC, a tablet, or even a mobile phone. You also need a strong Internet or WiFi connection to utilize all the benefits telehealth offers.

What are the Drawbacks?

Similar to any technology, telehealth has many listed potentials and benefits above, it also has some limitations. Fragmentation in delivering healthcare services: seeing different primary care doctors via telehealth may lead to overuse and overlapping medical care, inappropriate use of medications, and failure in getting insurance reimbursement. Since telehealth isn’t as commonly used as conventional in-office visits, some states regulations and insurance do not cover virtual doctor appointments. Another drawback of telehealth is that there are still some regions in the U.S. and the world don’t have reliable access to internet and don’t have enough resources for upgrading to mobile devices and other telehealth equipments.