Telehealth is the use of communications technologies to provide health care from a distance. These technologies may include computers, cameras, videoconferencing, the Internet, and satellite and wireless communications. Some examples of telehealth include
A "virtual visit" with a health care provider, through a phone call or video chat
A surgeon using robotic technology to do surgery from a different location
Sensors that can alert caregivers if a person with dementia leaves the house
Sending your provider a message through your electronic health record (EHR)
Watching an online video that your provider sent you about how to use an inhaler
Getting an email, phone, or text reminder that it's time for a cancer screening
Remote patient monitoring, which lets your provider check on you while you
are at home. For example, you might wear a device that measures your heart
rate and sends that information to your provider.
What is the difference between telemedicine and telehealth?
Sometimes people use the term telemedicine to mean the same thing as telehealth. Telehealth is a broader term. It includes telemedicine. But it also includes things like training for health care providers, health care administrative meetings, and services provided by pharmacists and social workers.
What are the benefits of telehealth?
Some of the benefits of telehealth include
Getting care at home, especially for people who can't easily get to their providers' offices
Getting care from a specialist who is not close by
Getting care after office hours
More communication with your providers
Better communication and coordination between health care providers
More support for people who are managing their health conditions, especially chronic conditions such as diabetes
Lower cost, since virtual visits may be cheaper than in-person visits
What are the problems with telehealth?
Some of the problems with telehealth include
If your virtual visit is with someone who is not your regular provider, he or she may not have all of your medical history
After a virtual visit, it may be up to you to coordinate your care with your regular provider
In some cases, the provider may not be able to make the right diagnosis without examining you in person. Or your provider may need you to come in for a lab test.
There may be problems with the technology, for example, if you lose the connection, there is a problem with the software, etc.
Some insurance companies may not cover telehealth visits
What types of care can I get using telehealth?
The types of care that you can get using telehealth may include
General health care, like wellness visits
Prescriptions for medicine
Dermatology (skin care)
Mental health counseling
Urgent care conditions, such as sinusitis, urinary tract infections, common rashes, etc.
Benefits and Potential Uses of Telehealth
Telehealth services can facilitate public health mitigation strategies during this pandemic by increasing social distancing. These services can be a safer option for HCP and patients by reducing potential infectious exposures. They can reduce the strain on healthcare systems by minimizing the surge of patient demand on facilities and reduce the use of PPE by healthcare providers.
Maintaining continuity of care to the extent possible can avoid additional negative consequences from delayed preventive, chronic, or routine care. Remote access to healthcare services may increase participation for those who are medically or socially vulnerable or who do not have ready access to providers. Remote access can also help preserve the patient-provider relationship at times when an in-person visit is not practical or feasible. Telehealth services can be used to:
Access primary care providers and specialists, including mental and behavioral health, for chronic health conditions and medication management
Provide coaching and support for patients managing chronic health conditions, including weight management and nutrition counseling
Participate in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other modalities as a hybrid approach to in-person care for optimal health
Monitor clinical signs of certain chronic medical conditions (e.g., blood pressure, blood glucose, other remote assessments)
Engage in case management for patients who have difficulty accessing care (e.g., those who live in very rural settings, older adults, those with limited mobility)
Deliver advance care planning and counseling to patients and caregivers to document preferences if a life-threatening event or medical crisis occurs
Provide non-emergent care to residents in long-term care facilities
Provide education and training for HCP through peer-to-peer professional medical consultations (inpatient or outpatient) that are not locally available, particularly in rural areas
Follow up with patients after hospitalization