In the current environment where a global public emergency exists, the healthcare industry has turned to telehealth as an alternative to in-person care.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, government regulations across the country have limited access to non-essential in-person care in order to keep communities safer. This has caused many healthcare providers to turn to telehealth as a short-term substitute for care.
But how sustainable is telehealth? Though it allows for a more convenient method of interaction with patients, is it a possible long-term replacement for in-person care?
What is telehealth?
Telehealth utilizes technology communication in healthcare settings to provide services remotely. This technology may include things like a patient portal where information and test results are shared between patient and doctor, health tracking apps, text and email reminders for appointments and prescription refills, or virtual appointments.
According to mayoclinic.org, telehealth is used with these goals in mind:
- Make healthcare accessible in rural or isolated areas
- Make services readily available for those with limited time, transportation options, or mobility
- Provide access to medical specialists
- Improve communication and coordination of care between the health team and patient
- Provide support for self-management of health
The growth of telehealth
With the sudden onset of COVID-19 earlier this year and the ensuing emergency regulations put in place, the healthcare industry has scrambled to adapt to alternatives for in-person care. Telehealth protects both doctor and patient from possibly spreading or getting the coronavirus by limiting in-person contact. This in turn, keeps communities everywhere much safer.
In 2020, much of telehealth’s growth has come from the use of virtual appointments. While in-person healthcare services were initially limited to only non-elective procedures at the start of the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has encouraged providers to adapt to virtual appointments in certain settings, such as routine check-ups, nutrition, and mental health counseling, medication consultations, and even dermatology.
Things like talk therapy and medication consults are fitting to the virtual transition, but telehealth is limited in settings where more in-person consultation and examination is required, such as home care and treatment plans that require in-office or in-hospital medical equipment.
Your telehealth options will depend on what the doctors near you are able to provide. While some patients may be able to get wellness visits, eye exams, urgent care, and even appointments with specialists scheduled, others may find themselves with more limited options, especially if their preferred offices are closed due to the pandemic.
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Keeping up with your preventive care
It’s always important to practice preventive care, such as regular checkups with your primary care doctor, annual skin exams with a dermatologist, or health screenings and tests with a specialist if you are at risk for certain health issues.
But especially in this stressful, uncertain time, keeping up with both routine AND preventive care is crucial to staying as healthy as possible to lower your risk of contracting and experiencing more severe symptoms of the coronavirus. Ignoring your health concerns now may have adverse effects on you later.
The point of preventive healthcare is to screen for and notice health conditions early to improve health outcomes through early intervention, so make sure you are staying on top of your appointments, vaccines, and medications to help your future self!
Benefits of telehealth
Telehealth is an incredible opportunity for health providers to connect with and treat their patients. It allows for easy communication without geographic limitations. It overcomes time, transportation, and mobility barriers, and in our current environment, removes the risk of spreading disease.
Disadvantages of telehealth
Though telehealth has become extremely convenient for our society right now, its drawbacks may deter it from becoming a sustainable system for healthcare. A lack of in-person evaluation may affect the quality of treatment or diagnosis and technological difficulties are always possible. These disadvantages should be accounted for when thinking about the potential health errors that could be made as a result of telehealth.
Finding telehealth services
There’s no doubt that telehealth has served us incredibly well during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s allowed for people to connect with their doctors regarding their physical health concerns from the virus or a different condition, and connect with therapists regarding their mental health concerns– a growing need as a direct result of the pandemic.
When we’ve needed health services most, technology has had our backs. Finding telehealth providers has never been easier. In the U.S. sites like Wellistic’s telehealth marketplace is a perfect place to start.