Telehealth

The Internet has transformed our lives during the last decades. It has changed the way we stay in touch with other people, study, work, and buy goods and services. However, modern technologies have also changed how we manage our health care as technology plays a big role in the medical domain today.

A range of telehealth and telemedicine tools are available today to help you manage your health. In these challenging times of self-isolation and quarantine, the benefits of telehealth are becoming more obvious to a growing number of people.

What is Considered Telehealth?

Telehealth, also known as e-health, is the use of digital technologies to provide distant health care, public health services, and health education. Telehealth is a tool that health providers use to care for their patients remotely when neither of them is physically present.

What are Examples of Telehealth?

Telehealth technology enables the physicians to provide remote diagnoses, monitor the patient’s medical condition, and alter the medications or the specific therapy if necessary. Telehealth also includes health education and teaching services, remote doctor-patient consultations, and remote monitoring of vital signs. It also allows for remotely prescribed treatments and medications.

Are Telehealth and Telemedicine the Same?

Telehealth and telemedicine refer to a different way of administering health care via modern technologies. Telehealth has a somewhat broader scope and covers telecare as well.

The term telecare relates to the use of technology that allows patients to stay at home and remain independent. This technology involves the medical alert system, computers, phones, and mobile monitoring devices.

Also, telemedicine relates specifically to remote clinical services while telehealth can also stand for remote non-clinical services, such as health education, provider training, and administrative meetings, in addition to medical services.

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine is part of telehealth that provides diagnosis and treatment of illness or injury. It involves a range of applications and services using smartphones, wireless tools, two-way video, and other forms of telecommunication technology.

You can use telemedicine for remote consultation with your healthcare provider. Also, your physician can forward your medical history and diagnostic information to your telemedicine doctor for a review. Based on this information, your telemedicine doctor can make a diagnosis and create the appropriate treatment plan.

Does Telehealth Include Phone?

Yes, it does, but it is not limited only to the telephone. Telehealth includes a wide range of telecommunications, videoconferencing, and digital image technologies.

What Are the Benefits of Telehealth?

Telehealth provides tools that improve access to healthcare and make healthcare more cost-effective and efficient. Telehealth tools also improve health outcomes, remove barriers of geographical distance and healthcare provider shortages.

Another important advantage of telehealth is that it allows the aging citizens to age in place and keep their independence for as long as possible.

Telehealth allows you to share information with your physician in real-time using a computer, telephone, or smartphone. Telemedicine software allows you to receive medical attention and care from the comfort of your home. You can also see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment without having to wait for an appointment at their office.

What are the Disadvantages of Telehealth?

Despite many advantages, telehealth has a few challenges as well.

One of the main disadvantages of telehealth is cost and availability. Some people don’t have access to telemedicine services and healthcare providers. Also, telehealth and telemedicine may be expensive to set up and maintain for small healthcare facilities.

Furthermore, some people simply prefer face-to-face contact with their healthcare provider, so telehealth is not the best option for them. Also, some doctors are struggling with the use of modern technology and show resistance to telehealth.

Technology is reliable most of the time. However, electronic glitches happen from time to time, which can complicate your online consultations with a doctor and generate frustration and stress.

What Can Telehealth Treat?

Here are the most common services that telehealth includes:

Primary Care Medicine

Telemedicine healthcare providers offer primary care telemedicine. This includes seeing patients for things like; colds and flu, allergies, asthma, bronchitis, rashes, infections, insect bites, diarrhea, UTIs, pink eye, sinusitis, etc…

Other Telehealth Services

Remote Patient Monitoring

Furthermore, telemedicine covers remote patient monitoring, including home telehealth.

Consumer Medical and Health Information

You can use the Internet and wireless devices to obtain specialized health information and provide peer-to-peer support.

Health Education

Medical education is intended for health professionals and targeted groups in remote locations.

How Do You Access Telehealth?

Telehealth access usually requires sound and video. However, if a video cannot be done, a phone conversation will work. The service is usually provided through a toll-free telephone number or an online account.

You need to fill out some basic information about your current medical condition before you request a telemedicine session with a healthcare provider.

The video component can be done by downloading an APP called WhatsApp for all smartphones, or Facetime for iPhones.

How Much Does Telehealth Cost?

Telemedicine visits are $65 over the phone per consultation. Your medications will be called into your local pharmacy where your individual insurance will be applied to your medication costs. We are able to request up to a 90-day supply.

Does Medicare Pay for Telehealth?

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) pays for certain telehealth services. You need to pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for your healthcare provider’s services, and Medicare covers the rest.

Keep in mind that your location at the time of telemedicine service affects Medicare coverage. For the telemedicine service to be covered under Medicare, you need to be at a health facility that is located within a Health professional Shortage Area (HPSA) and in one of the following types of health care facilities:

  • Physicians or practitioner offices
  • Rural health clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Critical Access Hospitals
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Community Health Care Centers
  • Federally Qualified Health Centers

What are Three Different Types of Telemedicine?

There are three common types of telemedicine:

  • Interactive Medicine

Interactive medicine allows patients and healthcare providers to communicate in real-time. Telemedicine is compliant with HIPAA laws, which aim to protect private or secure medical documents.

  • Store and Forward

This telemedicine type allows providers to share patient information with a healthcare practitioner in another location.

  • Remote Patient Monitoring

Remote patient monitoring allows remote caregivers to monitor patients at their homes by using medical devices to collect information such as blood pressure or blood sugar. 

What Makes Telehealth Successful?

Access to Healthcare

Telehealth improves your access to healthcare. While e-care will not completely replace face-to-face consultations with your doctor, it can make medical care more accessible to patients who live in rural areas, have a chronic illness or limited mobility.

The Cost of Healthcare

Good telehealth programs allow you to receive quality medical care at the same time reducing the cost of care (for example, eliminating travel expenses). Telehealth helps improve communication between the care providers and their patients and increasing access to preventive care services. This may reduce hospital readmission rates and reduce the overall cost of care for healthcare facilities.

Privacy

Telehealth programs are designed to comply with HIPAA regulations which aim to protect sensitive healthcare information and use a reliable digital infrastructure to ensure patients’ safety.

In other words, by using telehealth, your healthcare facility meets your medical needs without putting you at risk.

How Does Telehealth Improve Patient Care?

Telehealth improves patient care through improved customer experience. Quality telehealth tools allow you to request appointments online, lower the cost of medical care, reduce wait times, and improve your access to prescriptions and rehabilitation programs.

Does Blue Cross Cover Telehealth?

Telehealth medical services and procedures are covered under some Blue Cross health care plans. Therefore, if your health covers these services, you may get remote medical care from a telemedicine doctor or provider by mobile app, phone, or online video.

How Long has Telehealth Been Around?

Telehealth has been around for about 40 years. However, in the last decade, it has been significantly growing in all sectors. Telemedicine reduces the barriers to receiving medical care. The use of telecommunications and technology allows doctors and other healthcare providers to provide care to their patients remotely, which makes telehealth convenient, cost-effective and time-saving.

What is One Major Issue with Telehealth in Regards to Patient Privacy?

Innovative technologies offer a promising solution to medical care, allowing patients to manage their health conditions through improved self-care. While innovative technologies promise to improve the quality of care, increase patient satisfaction and reduce cost, they involve some privacy and security risks.

For example, smartphone applications may share sensitive data with third parties in ways not anticipated by users. The risk of unauthorized access to patient’s data during collection, transmission, or storage is a major concern related to telehealth, because and data transfer can potentially put security at risk.

What is a Telehealth Assistant?

A medical assistant working in telehealth provides patient support, patient education, and patient care via a telehealth platform. Telehealth assistants link and coordinate information between healthcare providers and patients. 

Despite its numerous benefits, telemedicine does not fully replace seeing your primary care doctor for in-person checkups but rather serves as an adjunct, especially during these unique times.

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