Telehealth is providing a new way for you to see your doctor in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. You can schedule a virtual doctor visit and speak to your doctor without ever leaving your home. It’s a great option if you’re worried about going into your doctor’s office because of the coronavirus.
Telehealth visits continue to gain popularity. It was once thought of as a way to give people who live in rural areas better access healthcare. But the way we’ve been using telehealth or virtual doctor appointments has changed over the years.
The Health Resources Services Administration launched its first telehealth programs in the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy in 1988. Four years later, the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth was formally established. Today, it's a $23 million enterprise supporting projects in all 50 states and eight territories.
So, let’s take a look at what telehealth technology is and how it may help you.
What Is Telehealth?
The HRSA defines telehealth as the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.
- The internet
- Store-and-forward imaging
- Streaming media
- Terrestrial and wireless communications.
You can access a virtual doctor visit on your smartphone, desktop, laptop or tablet. You will have to check the individual capabilities of your provider’s telehealth system. Each boasts different features.
What’s The Difference Between Telehealth and Telemedicine?
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the terms telehealth and telemedicine are often used interchangeably, but telehealth covers a broader array of digital healthcare activities and services. It is a blanket term that covers all components and activities of healthcare and the healthcare system that are conducted through telecommunications technology.
Telemedicine, on the other hand, is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology.” Telemedicine refers specifically to the practice of medicine via remote means. It’s typically used when a patient is geographically separated from their provider.
Examples of Telehealth and Telemedicine
An example of telemedicine (used by NEJM) is when a radiology technician reads an image for a patient in a different county whose hospital doesn’t have a radiologist on staff.
Telehealth technology not only enables your doctor to provide an evaluation and diagnosis, but your doctor will also look for fluctuations in your condition and adjust or alter your medications or therapy if needed.
Examples of the things online doctors can address include:
Your virtual doctor will also be able to follow up with you on diagnostic tests and lab results.
How Popular Are Virtual Doctor Visits?
Nearly 60% of all health centers are offering virtual visits. More and more people are taking advantage of virtual care for the assessment and management of non-emergency healthcarefor any number of reasons. They include:
- Saving time
- Saving money (on things like gas)
- Eliminating wait times
- Eliminate child or eldercare issues
Online doctors are board-certified and someone is always available during office hours and some providers offer telehealth services 24 hours a day. Be sure to check with your provider to pinpoint the hours that virtual doctor visits are available.
Is Telehealth Covered By My Health Plan?
Many insurances are waiving copays and a patient's financial responsibility for telehealth visits.
The big five insurance carriers (Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare, Signa, Aetna, Humana) all offer some form of coverage for telehealth services. And Medicare telehealth services include:
- Office visits
But either you or someone from your doctor’s office will need to call your insurance company and ask if telehealth is covered under your specific policy.
Virtual Doctor Visits To Stay Safe
The COVID-19 public health emergency is causing a lot of us to change the way we do things. Telehealth can be one of those things. We’re living in a virtual world now where many of the things we used to have to go out and do, we can now do at home.
We work, shop, and even play online. And now a visit with a virtual doctor is becoming the norm.
Another one of the advantages of using telehealth services is that there is less chance of catching a new illness. This is especially important at a time like now.
North Ohio Heart and Ohio Medical Group are proud to now be offering telehealth appointments for all of our patients.
Visit our Telehealth Services page or call today to schedule your appointment. Virtual doctor appointments are just another way we are helping you become a healthier you. Schedule your virtual doctor visit today.