Telehealth has emerged as an important tool in the delivery of healthcare services. The practice covers a wide range of medical technology and services that define the discipline as a whole. Telehealth is extremely useful for patients living in rural villages and other isolated places. This is due to the fact that it allows medical practitioners to utilize the Internet to acquire and communicate information as well as monitor patients’ health status through the use of peripheral equipment and software.
The following information discusses key factors shaping this burgeoning field.
What Is Telehealth?
Telehealth is a service that allows you to visit your doctor from the comfort of your own home. Telehealth may be especially beneficial for elderly individuals with limited mobility and those living in rural regions. This is because they will be able to view and speak with their doctor from the comfort of home. For older people, talking with their doctor online by phone may often be quicker, faster, and less expensive than going to an office.
Telehealth can also help family caregivers caring for loved ones who are nearby or far away. If a caregiver has a question for the doctor, they can do so through an online health portal rather than waiting for and traveling to an in-person appointment.
What are the various forms of telehealth?
Telehealth is not a single method of delivering virtual care. A medical professional can give many different types of telehealth services. Note that not every medical practitioner provides telehealth. However, as medical technology and health care advance, so do the options for providing care.
1. Live video
Live video is a two-way contact using audiovisual telecommunications technology between a person and a provider.
Videoconferencing units, peripheral cameras, and web cameras are examples of video devices. This means that you can use PCs with video and a microphone. Consultations, check-ins, and health education are frequently conducted through live video.
2. Mobile health
Mobile health is a new element of technology-enabled health care. It is the delivery of healthcare services and personal health data using mobile devices.
3. Remote patient monitoring
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) gathers medical and other types of health data from individuals in a single location using digital technologies. And then, it securely transfers the information to health care experts in another location for assessment and suggestions. This type of service enables a provider to continue monitoring healthcare data for a patient after they are discharged from a hospital or care facility, lowering readmission rates.
Monitoring programs can collect vital signs, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and electrocardiograms at the point of treatment.
Through secure email communication, store-and-forward technologies enable the electronic transmission of medical information such as digital pictures, documents, and pre-recorded videos. Unlike a real visit, this service allows access to data after it has been gathered and includes communication methods such as secure email.
The pros and cons of telehealth
Here’s a brief overview of the major pros and cons of telehealth:
Pros of Telemedicine
1. Patients will benefit from more convenient and accessible care
The driving force behind the telehealth sector is to provide patients with more accessible healthcare. Telemedicine was first created in the United States to address care shortages, especially in remote rural regions. Telemedicine is now used all over the world. It can offer basic healthcare in third-world nations.
Telehealth cannot only eliminate typical geographical obstacles to care access. But it can also make the whole healthcare delivery model more accessible for patients.
2. Saves on Healthcare costs
Every year, the United States spends more than $2.9 trillion on healthcare than any other developed country. Furthermore, it is estimated that $200 billion of those expenses are preventable, unnecessary spending. Telehealth has the ability to reduce our healthcare costs by:
- Decreasing issues such as medication non-adherence and needless ER visits
- Making routine doctor appointments more efficient
According to this study, telehealth can reduce healthcare costs significantly.
3. Extends access to consults from specialists
A medical practice or hospital system can instantly increase access to niche medical specialists by utilizing telehealth.
This makes it easy for:
- Primary care doctors to consult with medical experts about a patient’s case
- Patients to see a needed specialist about a rare form of cancer, regardless of their location
As another example, small hospitals with inadequate radiology specialists on staff might use telemedicine to outsource x-ray evaluation.
4. Increasing patient engagement
In today’s increasingly connected world, patients demand a different type of care experience. Telemedicine engages patients by making it possible for them to communicate with their doctor more regularly and in a more convenient way. This means:
- More questions and answers
- A better doctor-patient connection
- Patients feel empowered to manage their own treatment
5. Better quality patient care
Telemedicine makes it easier for physicians to check in on patients and ensure that everything is going properly. Whether they are using a more comprehensive remote patient monitoring device to monitor the patient’s heart or a video chat to answer medication questions following a hospital release, telemedicine leads to improved treatment results.
Cons of Telehealth
1. Technical training and equipment are required
Telemedicine platforms usually need some training and the purchase of equipment. How much is truly dependent on the solution. A more comprehensive inpatient telemedicine platform may need more training as well as the purchase of a telemedicine cart and several mobile health devices. A secure video chat program, such as eVisit, requires far less staff training and usually only requires the purchase of a camera.
2. Some telemedicine models may result in reduced care continuity
Consumer-facing telehealth companies provide patients with the enormous benefit of on-demand care. An ill patient may check up online and request an appointment with one physician to receive treatment. However, this model, like the retail health movement, results in a breakdown in service continuity. A random doctor who does not know the patient does not have a complete medical history.
3. May reduce in-person interactions with doctors
Some critics claim that online telemedicine interactions are impersonal. And that physical tests are commonly required to provide a complete diagnosis. What effects will there be if more patients use online interactions instead of in-person visits?
In many cases, face-to-face patient-doctor interactions are obviously useful and necessary. Telemedicine is best used to augment these visits — to do basic check-ins with patients and ensure that everything is going well. An in-person visit with an established patient is sometimes unnecessary for minor acute conditions (such as infections). Telemedicine can save the patient, the doctor, and the healthcare system time and money in certain situations.
4. It might be difficult to navigate the changing policy and reimbursement landscape
Telemedicine reimbursement is a complicated topic, especially given the ever-changing state policies. Many states now have parity legislation requiring private payers to reimburse for telemedicine consultations in the same way that they do for in-person appointments. The best way to navigate reimbursement is to contact your principal payers and inquire about their rules.
It’s also worth noting that many doctors who use telehealth may charge the customer a convenience fee. It can range from $35 to $125 per visit. This charge is paid directly by the patient and is in addition to any reimbursement from a payer. This means patients must pay out of pocket. But many of eVisit’s customers have found that patients don’t mind. And are even willing to pay an extra price for the convenience.