Technology is quickly changing the way we do many things around the world, including how we might receive our health care. The term “telehealth” refers to health care being delivered by a provider to a patient who is in a different location via some form of technology, such as a smart phone or computer.
What are Telehealth Services and How do they Work?
Often people will use the terms telemedicine and telehealth interchangeably. However, it is essential to note that for reimbursement and legal reasons, these terms might be defined differently. For example, in the U.S., telemedicine will specifically refer to a live video consult. Telehealth is a bit broader in terms of definition.
Telehealth is often seen as encompassing aspects of telemedicine but will include remote patient monitoring, administrative tasks, and other interactions that might not be direct. Primarily, all telemedicine services will fall under the umbrella of telehealth, but not all telehealth services are part of telemedicine.
Telehealth Consultation Types
There are many ways that telehealth services might be delivered. Each of the methods provides some drawbacks and benefits. Here are some of the common types of telehealth delivery.
In live interaction, providers and patients will interact in real-time. Communicating in real-time will allow information to be shared transparently and for any followup questions, the patient might have. This also helps patients develop a level of trust in the provider. Additionally, the real-time aspect can be useful for counseling services as well. Live interactions will use phone services and a secure link for the video.
Store and Forward
This method will store important information such as diagnostic tests, videos, and photographic images and then send it to the medical provider. The medical provider will then evaluate the information and then respond. Since there is a time lag, it limits the ability to ask any questions. However, this method can streamline the process as it does not require working around the schedules of the providers and patients. Technologies such as patient portals and SMS are used for this method of telehealth.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring allows providers or patients to enter health care data, such as weight, blood glucose levels, and blood pressure for an extended amount of time. This information is collected, and the health care team will then be able to evaluate any significant changes or trends. This method provides invaluable information to doctors for patients who are suffering from chronic illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes.
mHealth refers to health care delivery that is done through a mobile device such as a phone or a tablet. These devices can be used for inputting relevant data, text messages, and communication with providers through instant messaging or video calls.
Why Choose Telehealth Services?
Telehealth services are a way to provide access to patients that might not be able to come into an office. These services are convenient and efficient. Telehealth offers a way to increase access to patient services and also improves communication between providers. These services make it much easier for a medical professional to consult other experts for legal issues and to offer advice to universities and schools.
Another reason to consider telehealth when applicable to your needs is that it reduces the overall cost. Additionally, no travel is necessary, which means that you are not at risk of getting another illness while you are sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room. Additionally, telehealth services are a way to cover doctor shortages as doctors can communicate with patients from other health care facilities that might be short-staffed.
For mental health issues, telehealth services allow patients to get the counseling and care that they need right away. This service can be crucial when it comes to those who suffer from mental health issues and are seeking care immediately. For medics, telehealth services provide additional tools and support for faster diagnoses and emotional support that can lead to making better decisions. All of these things can improve patient outcomes.
Limitations and Barriers of Telehealth Services
Telehealth delivery has become much more possible over recent years due to the increase in technology. However, there are still regulatory and technological limitations that can impact the success of these services. Some people need to be seen in person to get a proper diagnosis. However, for common illnesses and to track symptoms, telehealth services are appropriate and often recommended as the best choice. Overall, telehealth services are changing rapidly and providing people with more access to healthcare than they might have once had.
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