A guide to Telehealth in times of pandemic.

What is it and how can it help you stay safe and healthy?

In an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, The Trump Administration recently announced the expansion of Telehealth services that will allow patients and providers to communicate virtually (online).

Medicare chief Seema Verma unveiled a “historic action” to promote virtual medical care or telehealth by temporarily lifting a variety of federal restrictions that limited the service to rural areas.

Verma claimed Telehealth will help handle routine care for older patients without risking a visit to a medical office and “waiting in a room full of other vulnerable people.”

The measure will help to avoid unnecessary office or hospital visits, reducing their risk for contracting COVID-19.

Through this article we will explore what exactly is Telehealth and how can it help you remain safe and healthy during these times.

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth is a broad term used to define the use of electronic and telecommunications technologies such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely and manage your health care.

Some examples of telehealth include health education services, remote monitoring of vital signs, ECG or blood pressure, and remote doctor-patient consultations.

Telehealth technology also enables the remote diagnoses and evaluation of patients to monitor changes in the medical condition, so that medications or the therapy can be altered accordingly and prescribed remotely.

Is telehealth safe?

Yes. a survey made in 2018 with healthcare providers found that telehealth can improve patient experience, an important factor in quality care.

90% of physicians acknowledge the benefits of virtual care, especially regarding patient experience, access to care, and patient satisfaction.

How will Telehealth look like for me?

With Telehealth, you will be using audio and video tools for hospital services you would normally seek in person.

You will communicate in real-time with your health care provider through a video conference to discuss any concerns and symptoms. With this information, they’ll be able to make an informed recommendation on whether you should go into the office or, otherwise, prescribe a recommended treatment.

These are some of the examples of Telehealth tools and services you might use:

Patient portal

A patient portal is a website used to communicate private medical information in a secure way. It provides a secure platform to do some of the following:

  • Communicate with your doctor or a nurse.
  • Request prescription refills.
  • Review test results and summaries of previous visits.
  • Schedule appointments or request appointment reminders.
Virtual appointments

Virtual appointments will allow you to see and talk to your doctor or nurse online. Through these appointments you’ll be able to receive ongoing care from your regular doctor when an in-person visit isn’t required or possible.

The doctor or nurse practitioner can prescribe medications, suggest home care strategies, or recommend additional medical care.

Remote monitoring

Remote monitoring enables your doctor or health care team to monitor your signs and symptoms without the need of being in the same room.

This is possible with the use of websites and apps where you can upload information, such as blood glucose readings, blood pressure, lung function, etc. Your doctor or nurse can then use this information to have a broader understanding of your case and make a better decision.

Online Referrals

Telehealth will also enable doctors to take better care of their patients by allowing primary care doctors to get input from specialists when they have questions about your diagnosis or treatment.

The primary care doctor can send exam notes, history, test results, X-rays, or other images to the specialist for their review and expert opinion. After that, the specialist may conduct a virtual appointment with you or request a face-to-face meeting.

These virtual consultations help prevent unnecessary in-person consultations, reducing wait times, and unnecessary risks.

Personal health apps

Health apps are tools for your mobile phone designed to help you upload and organize your medical information in one secure place. These digital tools may help you:

  • Store personal health information.
  • Record vital signs over time
  • Upload symptoms, medications, and progress.
  • Keep track of your food intake.
  • Schedule reminders for taking medicine.
  • Record physical activity, such as your daily step count.
  • Watch an educational video on a certain topic suggested by your health provider.
  • See your test results.
  • Schedule appointments
  • Request prescription refills or email your doctor.
  • Order testing supplies and medications online.
  • Get email, text, or phone reminders to upload any changes in your medical condition.

What are the benefits of Telehealth

  1. Gives Doctors a wider understanding of a patient reality.

Thanks to virtual visits, doctors can check in with sicker patients more often and learn more about their living environments and the conditions that can help or worsen their medical condition.

All of these factors are important and hard to assess in an in-person office visit.

  1. Allows for more comprehensive and specialized care

Nowadays a lot of valuable time and information is lost between visits from primary care doctors to specialists.

With in-person visits, it’s really difficult to get a primary care provider and a specialist in the exam room at the same time, but virtual visits make it possible.

  1. Make health care more accessible

Thanks to Telehealth people who live in rural or isolated communities can now have access to a complete range of services and specialists without the need for extensive travel. This way, it can provide millions of people access to safe, effective, and appropriate care when and where they need it.

It also makes services more readily available and convenient for people with limited mobility, time, or transportation options.

  1. Improves Quality

Research shows that the quality of healthcare services delivered via telehealth is as good as that given in traditional in-person consultations.

Furthermore, in some specialties, particularly in mental health and ICU care, telehealth delivers a superior product, with greater outcomes and consumer satisfaction.

Bottom Line

During the pandemic, Telehealth has become a key technology to help maintain patients safe at home while receiving the necessary care. This is especially important in cases of acute and chronic-condition-care visits.

Telehealth is proving to be a valuable and efficient resource to treat patients, implement remote monitoring, and help disabled and rural patients receive care from the safety of their own homes.

As coronavirus continues to spread across the country, Telehealth will help patients who are exhibiting symptoms to receive the proper screening and treatment without unnecessary risk or exposure.

At the same time, expanding telehealth coverage will allow patients to minimize their risk of contracting the virus or furthering its spread while also receiving the care and peace of mind they need.

 

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