Every industry has been feeling the pressure from the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the medical industry is arguably shouldering more of the burden than any other industry. Medical providers are burdened with finding ways to still care for patients while keeping everyone safe to slow the spread of the virus. Doctors know and face the risks more than anyone, but the medical industry cannot close up shop. Thankfully, modern technology has created solutions, so providers and patients can still connect to keep everyone as safe as possible. While you cannot entirely eliminate in-person medical appointments, a wide range of visits can be easily shifted to telehealth. The telehealth system has been so successful that some providers are considering using it even after the pandemic passes, but getting started with telehealth can be tricky. Telehealth is our new normal for medical care, and getting started is easier than you might imagine.
What is Telehealth
Telehealth or telemedicine are general terms to describe medical appointments conducted over the Internet or a phone call. Providers from a variety of specialties connect with patients through a HIPAA compliant app or standard phone call. Each provider or medical office might use a different telehealth service. While some services are better or more user friendly than others, most telemedicine services will get the job done. However, it is essential to note telehealth services are not the same as traditional medical records or practice management software. Telehealth apps will not contain your medical records, treatment history, or other sensitive information. Telemedicine apps should clearly explain what information they store, and if you are uncomfortable with your provider chosen app, they should work with you to find an alternative.
Getting Started With Telehealth
Getting started with telehealth is relatively straightforward. Your provider should contact you with the information for their chosen telehealth service before your appointment. Most telehealth appointments are for visits that do not require a physical exam and is primarily a conversation between patient and provider.
Telehealth apps or services pride themselves on security. Many apps require unique logins and links to connect to appointments. Payment services, digital signatures, and other features are all focused on keeping you and your information safe. Software developers have taken great care to ensure the telemedicine services are secure and easy to use.
Once you know which app or service your provider uses, take the time to explore it before your appointment, as you do not want to be fumbling with the app right as your appointment time starts. If, after investigating your provider’s chosen telemedicine service, you would rather use a different method, contact your provider to discuss alternatives. At a minimum, most providers should be willing to work with you to find a telehealth option that works for everyone.
Benefits of Telehealth
The most apparent benefit of telehealth is directly tied to the current global pandemic. Going into public spaces or crowded offices is not advisable right now. Doctors cannot run a medical office alone; they need receptionists, cleaning services, and more personnel to keep the office running. All of these people, in addition to patients, risk exposure to the virus, and so telehealth was primarily introduced to keep everyone safe. Still, there are more benefits of telemedicine that might not be as obvious.
Easier Access to Care
Doctor’s offices are not conveniently located for everyone. Some people drive hours to reach their providers and receive the care they need. Other people navigate public transit to reach their providers, which is even riskier during a pandemic. No one should have to trudge long distances just to get medical care, and telehealth has provided a solution. Telemedicine lets patients access their providers from home. Whether you are using telehealth for talk therapy, physical therapy, or any other non-critical care, telehealth saves you a trip to the office.
If medical offices were open to regular patients, the standard cleaning routines would have to be stepped up. Replacing the paper on the patient table, whipping down every surface, masks for providers and staff, and social distancing measures are not free. In addition to more advanced cleaning and protection measures costing more money, they also generate waste. Medical waste cannot be reused or recycled, but telehealth solves this problem. Providers, staff, and patients can stay safe at home while not generating extra waste.
Telehealth is a new invention, but the service is keeping patients and providers safe during the pandemic. Take the time to get comfortable with your provider’s telemedicine service, so you aren’t fumbling before your appointment. Telehealth was primarily developed because of the pandemic, but other benefits help everyone. Easier access to safe care while creating less waste helps everyone. By adjusting to telehealth, you can enjoy the benefits while doing your part to slow the spread of the virus.