Many of us had never heard of telehealth before the pandemic. However, as technology becomes an integral part of our lives, it makes sense to utilize it and incorporate it in one of the most important areas of our wellbeing, healthcare.
The traditional healthcare system has a reputation of being costly and slow, with long waiting times to drawn-out in-person doctor’s visits. As a response to this, telehealth’s emergence has been proliferating over the years.
The need for social distancing and restricted hospital visitations made telehealth skyrocket and quickly become a crucial segment of our healthcare system. Even before COVID-19, there was gradual interest and intention from policymakers to implement this system. However, the adoption was relatively slow owing to a lack of urgency, with only a quarter of all health care organizations in the U.S. having an existing virtual health care system in place.
Telehealth has surged under COVID-19, with the pandemic driving a need for urgent implementation and adaptation in virtually every part of America and the world.
Telehealth is the practice of offering healthcare services remotely with the use of technology. All you need is a stable internet connection and a working device to connect to your healthcare provider. The most commonly used mediums are through the phone, text messaging and emailing.
Hospitals are increasingly using video interactions, where a patient is diagnosed by doing an online wellness assessment, or in other words, a “virtual visit.”
This year some health care providers had an overwhelming number of video requests relating to both COVID-19 and other medical concerns. It is used in non-life-threatening situations and as a replacement for standard in-person visits.
Patients often have to undertake long commutes just for a routine doctor’s visit, causing them to waste time, and in some cases requiring time off work.
The ability to be diagnosed from your home, and in some cases, have your prescription ready at your local pharmacy is not only time-saving but also less taxing for the patient. It would also ease the lives of those with chronic illnesses. One survey showed that most patients requiring continuous refilling of prescriptions would prefer the use of video visits instead of in-person visits.
From a financial angle, telehealth implementation could save the U.S. more than $4.28 billion on healthcare spending per year. Additionally, it saves money both for the physicians and the patients.
It is estimated that users saved a hundred dollars by doing a telehealth visit instead of an in-person visit. Physicians don’t lose money on cancellations or no-shows.
From a mental health perspective, telehealth also has a role to play. Many find the stigma of going to a therapist’s office too large to overcome. They find it easier to talk with their mental and behavioral health professionals through text messaging, video conferencing, or other means of communication.
This year the economic crisis and imposed lockdowns have caused a historical rise in mental health issues. Due to the current restrictions in place, many cannot see the mental health professionals that help them cope with the pandemic’s social isolation, loss, and stress. Telehealth has helped reduce the mental healthcare burden and ensured the wellbeing of those affected.
A simple cold or infection is not often worth the hassle of making a drive to the doctor’s office. However, it is always recommended to get the opinion of a licensed professional. Telemedicine would lower the rate of self-medicating and self-diagnosing patients.
Depending on your healthcare provider, you can get telehealth services in several ways. One is through making virtual appointments. The other one is through a patient portal, where all of your relevant medical data is stored. You can set up appointments, get results, ask for prescription refills, and many other services. The best way to get more information is to ask and speak with your current provider and see if telehealth is a good fit for you.
Telemedicine is a great technology, but it will never be able to replace traditional hospital visits fully. The fact that telehealth is more than convenient is undeniable. Having telehealth operating parallel to the conventional healthcare system saves time, money and overall makes for a better and more efficient healthcare system.