The coronavirus pandemic is entering a new stage of global spread. More than 125,000 people have been infected, and more than 4,500 have died across more than 100 countries where cases have been reported. The outbreak has generated a frenzy of activity related to telehealth. Payors are increasingly extending coverage; health systems are mobilizing quickly to expand programs; and telehealth companies are seeing rapid increases in demand. As more and more patients with symptoms seek treatment, the virus could spread rapidly in health care settings. Telehealth offers unique capacity for remote screening, triage, and treatment, and it could be a powerful tool for reducing transmission of the disease to and among health care workers and patients who are not infected.
How Telehealth Works
The term “telehealth” refers to any method of connecting patients with doctors and health professionals remotely.
Much of today’s telehealth involves video appointments with doctors. It connects people with doctors and mental health professionals via video chat. In many cases, it is available 24/7, doesn’t require an appointment and requires little to no waiting. In most states, the doctors can write prescriptions, and sessions are covered by many insurance plans.
People can use such a service when their primary doctor is unavailable – such as when they’re on the road, or in the middle of the night – or when the wait, travel, time off work or cost makes visiting an in-person doctor difficult. Telehealth is also the safest option at times like these where people simply should not leave their homes due to dangerous environmental conditions.
Saving Time and Money With Telehealth
Low-cost sessions with no travel time or waiting room mean a more efficient doctor visit. Parents don’t have to leave home or drag along healthy kids to the doctor’s office, and people can get treated without leaving home when they’re sick or when the weather is bad. Individuals living in rural locations don’t have to make long trips to see doctors, and those who might otherwise have to take time off work to visit a doctor can see one before work or on a lunch break.
There are many programs which help patients do therapy on their own time without having to travel to another location and patients can choose exactly how often they want to do their exercises without any added cost because it’s not a per-session payment system.
Improving Patient Outcomes
One of the main benefits of telehealth is improved patient outcomes. In part, this is because it helps to reduce the very factors that keep people from visiting doctors as regularly as they might otherwise want to – like cost, time and inconvenience. By reducing these barriers, patients can take more control over their health.
With reduced barriers, patients can visit doctors more frequently and earlier, meaning that they can address issues as they arise and minimize complications.