What Is Telehealth?

When you’re feeling under the weather or have questions about your health, you usually schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. In after-hour situations, you may even head to an urgent care clinic. But as communication technology advances, your options for care are expanding. Through Telehealth services, you can receive medical advice anytime, anywhere, without leaving the comfort of your home.

The basics of Telehealth

Since the 1950s, healthcare providers have been offering remote services. This allows patients to receive healthcare without leaving their home, office, dorm room, hotel, or beyond. Telehealth first began on landline telephones. With the advancement of technology, telemedicine has grown to offer services in a variety of ways. This includes online portals and video software that allows for remote consultations.

Telehealth allows you to discuss symptoms, medical issues, and more with a healthcare provider in realtime. Using Telehealth, you can receive a diagnosis, learn your treatment options, and get referred to a specialist if required.

How does Telehealth work?

Telehealth isn’t appropriate for emergency situations like heart attack or stroke, cuts or lacerations, or broken bones that require x-rays, splints, or casts. Anything that requires immediate, hands-on care should be handled in person. However, Telehealth is very useful for simple issues and follow-up consultations.

For instance, if you suspect that a cut may be infected, you can schedule a virtual consultation with your healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms. If you’re on vacation and think you’re coming down with strep throat, you can communicate with your primary care physician.

It’s helpful for a variety of other health issues including psychotherapy, nutrition therapy, midwifery care and dermatology which offers consultations of moles, rashes, etc. Colds and flu, insect bites, sore throats, diarrhea, allergies, infections, skin inflammations, sprains & strains, cellulitis, and vomiting are some other common issues addressed using Telehealth.

The benefits of Telehealth

The need for more accessible healthcare is a driving force behind the growth of telemedicine. Whether a patient lives in a remote area or has a busy schedule that doesn’t allow time to visit a physician, telemedicine can help improve a person’s overall health and well-being.

But it can also help your financial health. Telehealth reduces the cost of healthcare and increases efficiency with better management of chronic diseases, shared health professional staffing, reduced travel times, and fewer or shorter hospital stays. According to a 2017 study in the US, the average Telehealth visit costs $79. The average doctor’s visit is $149 and the average trip to the emergency room is $1,734.

Studies have consistently shown that the quality of healthcare services delivered via Telehealth are as good as those given in traditional in-person consultations. In some specialties, particularly in mental health, Telehealth delivers a superior product, with greater outcomes and consumer satisfaction.

As the popularity of telemedicine grows, many health insurance plans are beginning to offer coverage for telemedicine visits. It’s best to check with your specific plan’s benefits before using Telehealth to understand your financial obligation. 

Give it a try

Telehealth may be a viable option the next time you come down with a case of the sniffles or need a consultation about the use of a certain medication.

Telemedicine doesn’t mean that you’ll never visit a doctor’s office again. But it does make care more accessible and affordable in some cases. Plus, it can definitely help reduce the time you spend in your doctor’s waiting room.

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