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What Is Telehealth and How It Can Improve Your Health Care

Telehealth is the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers, smartphones, and videoconferencing, to provide and support healthcare services remotely. It can be used for remote diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of health conditions, as well as health education and counseling. 

Continue reading to learn more about how telehealth can improve your health care.

Definitions of Telehealth, Telemedicine, and Telecare

Telehealth, telemedicine, and telecare are terms related to the use of technology to provide healthcare and support services remotely. These technologies have become essential, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, in expanding access to healthcare and improving patient outcomes. While they share similarities, the meanings and applications differ:

  • Telehealth: A broad term that encompasses all healthcare services, information, and education delivered remotely through electronic communication technologies. It includes numerous services, such as consultations with healthcare providers, monitoring of vital signs, remote diagnosis and treatment, education on health-related topics, and more. Telehealth can involve various technologies, including video calls, phone calls, secure messaging, and mobile apps. Telehealth aims to improve access to healthcare services, especially in rural or underserved areas and can be used for routine check-ups, follow-up appointments, and chronic disease management.

  • Telemedicine: A subset of telehealth refers to providing clinical healthcare services remotely. It involves using telecommunication and information technology to facilitate medical consultations, diagnosis, and treatment between healthcare providers and patients or healthcare providers. Telemedicine often includes real-time videoconferencing, secure messaging, and electronic health record (EHR) integration. It can be used for primary care, mental health, radiology, and more. Telemedicine is valuable for situations where in-person visits are not feasible.

  • Telecare: Focuses on providing remote monitoring and support services for individuals with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or seniors who need assistance with living activities. It involves using sensors, wearable devices, and other technologies to collect and transmit health-related data to healthcare professionals or caregivers. Telecare can detect health issues, provide timely interventions, and enhance the quality of care while allowing individuals to remain in their homes. Telecare services include remote patient monitoring, fall detection systems, medication adherence reminders, and personal emergency response systems (PERS).

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A Brief History of Telehealth

Telehealth is becoming increasingly popular as it allows for greater access to healthcare services for those who may not have the ability to travel to a doctor’s office. Below is a brief timeline of telehealth services:

  • The first recorded use of telehealth was in 1952 when a doctor in Massachusetts used a two-way television system to consult with a patient.
  • In the 1960s, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began using telehealth to provide care to veterans in rural areas.
  • In the 1970s, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began using telehealth to monitor astronauts in space.
  • In the 1990s, the Internet enabled the delivery of telehealth services over long distances.
  • In the 2000s, telehealth began to be used more as the cost of technology decreased and the quality of services improved.
  • In the 2010s, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) included provisions that expanded the use of telehealth.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth became essential for providing care to patients who could not travel to a doctor’s office.

Benefits of Telehealth

  • More cost-effective
  • Reduce wait times for appointments
  • Improve outcomes, as patients are more likely to follow up with care
  • Improve access to healthcare, especially in rural or underserved areas
  • More convenient, as patients can see a doctor or medical professional from the comfort of their homes

How Does Telehealth Work

Telehealth can be used for various medical services, including mental health counseling, physical therapy, and nutrition counseling.

  • Patients can connect with a healthcare provider through video conferencing, phone calls, or secure messaging.
  • The provider can assess the patient’s condition and provide care, such as prescribing medication or ordering tests.
  • The provider can also refer the patient to other healthcare services, such as physical therapy or counseling.

Types of Telehealth Services

  • Virtual Visits: The most common. Patients connect with a healthcare provider through video conferencing to discuss their medical condition and receive care.
  • Remote Patient Monitoring: This entails wearing sensors to transmit health-related data.
  • Tele-Education: Educating and supporting patients and their caregivers. This can be done through video conferencing, phone calls, or secure messaging.

Telehealth Technologies

  • Video Conferencing: The most common. Patients connect with a doctor in real-time.
  • Phone Calls: Connect with a doctor over the phone.
  • Secure Messaging: Send and receive messages with the healthcare provider.
  • Mobile Apps: Many apps allow patients to connect with their doctor.
What Is Telehealth | Medical House Calls

Pricing for Telehealth Services

Telehealth costs depend on the method and the provider. In general, services are less expensive than in-person visits and include a comprehensive medical assessment via video chat, with prescriptions provided if required. Alas, below are some standard pricing models and considerations:

  1. Consultation Fees: Many providers charge fees for telehealth appointments, similar to in-person visits. These vary based on the provider (e.g., primary care physician, specialist), the duration of the consultation, and the complexity of the medical issue.
  2. Health Insurance: Sometimes, health insurance plans cover telehealth services, either partially or in full. The pricing structure can vary, so patients should check with their insurance provider.
  3. Subscription Services: Some platforms offer subscription-based models where patients pay a monthly or annual fee. The services may include unlimited virtual consultations, access to health and wellness resources, and prescription management.
  4. Pay-Per-Visit: Some providers offer a pay-per-visit model. The fees differ and may be influenced by the provider’s pricing structure.
  5. Employer-Sponsored Programs: Some employers offer telehealth services as part of their benefits package. 
  6. Government Programs: In some countries, government-funded programs may provide services to eligible individuals at little to no cost. 
  7. Specialized Services: Certain services, such as teledermatology or telepsychiatry, may have unique pricing structures. 
  8. Nonprofit and Community Programs: Some organizations and community health centers offer telehealth services at reduced or sliding-scale fees.
  9. Additional Costs: Patients should consider extra costs, such as prescription medications, laboratory tests, or follow-up appointments.

Telehealth pricing can evolve, so stay informed about your region’s latest developments and options. Additionally, regulatory changes and government policies can impact the availability and pricing. 

How to Prepare for a Telehealth Virtual Visit

  • Gather all medical records and medications you are taking.
  • Be prepared to discuss your medical history and current symptoms.
  • Have a list of questions to ask the medical professional.
  • Find a quiet place where you can have a conversation.
  • Make sure your device has a good internet connection.

How to Find a Telehealth Provider

In order to find a telehealth provider, there are several steps you can take. First, you can start by asking your primary care physician if they offer telehealth services or if they can recommend a provider. 

Additionally, you can search online directories that provide comprehensive lists of telehealth providers in your area. These directories often include patient reviews and ratings, making it easier for you to find a reputable telehealth provider that suits your specific needs. With telehealth, accessing healthcare has never been more convenient and accessible. 

Sign Up for Medical House Calls Concierge Medicine Services

Telehealth can improve your well-being by making it easier to see a medical practitioner, reducing costs, and improving outcomes. If you are interested in telehealth, consider Medical House Calls for their concierge medicine services. Sign up for 12 months of unlimited house calls and telehealth consultations for up to six family members.

Take the first step to a more comprehensive and accessible healthcare experience. Contact us to learn more and embark on a journey toward optimal health and wellness.

 

A ‘Tele-Health Call’ is defined as any verbal communication (via video conferencing or phone call) between the Client and any medical professional hired or employed by Medical House Calls LLC (including any and all independent contractors that have signed and independent contractor agreement).

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