How Telehealth Works: Help During COVID-19
Most of us have used some form of telehealth, and it’s even more likely, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Have you had a video appointment with your primary care doctor? Or what about a mental health therapist? Have you messaged your doctor via a web portal? Or, have you downloaded a stress reduction app that your doctor suggested? If so, you have used telehealth.
Have you thought much about it? For example, do you like the convenience of video appointments? Or do you prefer the personal touch of in-office visits? If you’re like many people the answer to both is “Yes”. In fact, a Zoom survey found 72% of respondents would like to continue with both types of appointments following COVID-19 limitations.
What is Telehealth?
So, what exactly is telehealth? You may find the terms describing telehealth confusing. There is telehealth, telemedicine, virtual visit, eHealth, and so on. Sometimes the words are used interchangeably, but here’s what they mean:
Telehealth is a broad term that refers to the use of technology to deliver care when the provider/doctor and the receiver/patient are in different locations. The technology may be:
Live video conferencing or meetings. For example, communication between a doctor and patient (Video meetings are one type of eHealth, meaning they use the internet to provide healthcare services)
Web portals for secure communication. For example, a patient sending a message to request a medication refill. (Web portals are another eHealth process)
Electronic devices or sensors that capture and send data. For example, remote heart monitoring electrocardiography-ECG) or blood oxygen levels (pulse oximetry). The devices capture data that is sent to a web portal or other digital system
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is a type of telehealth. It means “healing at a distance.” Doctors, therapists, etc. provide care through online video appointments or by scheduled phone calls. These virtual visits save time, provide easy access, and allow patients and doctors to communicate effectively.
Why Is TeleHealth Beneficial?
Telehealth Supports Your Health
Telemedicine is remote care, but it can be just as beneficial as in-person care. A review shows that telemedicine is equivalent to in-person care for mental health, rehabilitation, and dermatology assessment and treatment.
The use of telemedicine allows us to see doctors, almost anywhere. You can see medical specialists for care or second opinions about a diagnosis or course of treatment. On the other hand, in-person access to medical specialists may be difficult, requiring additional expense, as well as travel, and time.
Telehealth Supports People with Musculoskeletal (MSK) Pain and Sleep and Digestive Problems
There are many studies supporting telehealth programs for specific medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease, but also MSK pain and sleep and digestive problems.
MSK pain. Internet-based rehabilitation programs can help lessen pain in people with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Online care for those with OSA can help to identify problems and improve treatment adherence (i.e. with continuous positive airway pressure - CPAP use).
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Internet-delivered behavioral therapy for IBS reduces symptoms when compared to those not receiving therapy.
Telehealth Helps Prevent Disease
Telemedicine appointments allow us to avoid exposure to others who may transmit infections.
With COVID-19, in-person healthcare visits require masks and screening questions and limiting the number of people allowed in the office (Have you waited in the car until you’re instructed to enter?). Despite your doctor following recommendations, there may still be patients and personnel with COVID-19, thus an increased risk of exposure.
During flu season, our doctors have always requested that we wear masks if we have a cough or other signs of the flu. And, in pediatric practices, sick children are often separated from well children to prevent the spread of infections. These standards are still in place, although the focus has been on COVID-19.
Telehealth Is Accessible, Convenient, and Time-saving
Since telehealth emerged over thirty years ago, people living in rural and underserved areas are able to receive care. Using telemedicine, they can see their doctors remotely, capture and send information via patient monitoring devices, and get prescriptions filled electronically (e-prescribing).
This continues today, but has broadened to allow access to local doctors. With in-office care, you have to take time away from your day to travel to the office, wait to see your doctor, and then finally see them. Your brief office visit can turn into a half-day event. Telemedicine visits start and end with you and your doctor.
Traditional office visits may also create challenges due to childcare issues, disability, advanced age, or transportation. Rarely are these factors with telemedicine visits.
Telehealth Supports Doctors (And You)
Telehealth also has significant benefits for doctors which may, in turn, help you. Some examples include:
Less sickness. Your doctor has a decreased risk of infection as compared to in-person care. You benefit because your doctor is healthy and available to care for you
Improved access. Your doctor can care for patients in medically underserved areas. If you live in such an area, you can receive care without traveling to a distant office
Better care. Your doctor can easily consult with other doctors or specific specialists. You may be the one to benefit from the consultant’s knowledge
Enhanced messaging. Your doctor can communicate with patients and pharmacies with far less effort than conventional methods. You can conveniently access your doctor and quickly fill prescriptions
Increased ease. Your doctor can lower costs and increase efficiency. Your care is made easier since many problems can be managed remotely
Goodpath’s Telehealth Approach
Goodpath provides care for musculoskeletal pain, trouble sleeping, and digestive problems using several telehealth technologies.
First, we use our digital assessment to create your personalized program. Your program is then delivered via our mobile app. The app has a chat function so you and your health coach can talk with each other in real-time. From the app, you can: participate in exercise therapy; practice meditation; follow dietary instructions; record your pain, diet, or sleep information; monitor your progress and goals, and view your library of educational topics.
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