Let’s start with the basics. Telehealth is done primarily online with internet access on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. While “telemedicine” was commonly used in the past, it is being phased out in favor of “telehealth,” which is a more universal term for the current broad array of applications in the field. Its use crosses most health service disciplines, including dentistry, counseling, physical and occupational therapy, home health, chronic disease monitoring and management, and disaster management; it’s also expanded beyond traditional diagnostic and monitoring activities to include consumer and professional education.
There are several options for telehealth care:
You can talk to your health care provider live over the phone or video chat.
You can even send and receive messages from your health care provider using secure messaging, email, secure messaging, and secure file exchange.
And you can use remote monitoring so your health care provider can check on you at home. For example, you might use a medical device to gather vital signs or other vitals to help your health care provider stay informed on your progress.
Telehealth has really escalated during Covid-19 showing that we all needed a flexible alternative to get needed during a time when it was not safe to see the doctor in person. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office even issued a Notification of Enforcement Discretion to empower covered health care providers to use widely available communications applications without the risk of penalties imposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights for violations of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) rules for the good faith provision of telehealth services.
Under this new enforcement and notice, allowed for covered health care providers to use popular applications to deliver telehealth as long as they are “non-public facing.” Examples of non-public facing applications include:
Video chat applications
Facebook Messenger video chat
Google Hangouts video
Under this notice, covered health care providers that seek additional privacy protections should use technology vendors that are HIPAA compliant and will enter into HIPAA business associate agreements in connection with the provision of their video communication products.
What care can you get with telehealth?
Lab test or x-ray results
Mental health treatment, including online therapy, counseling, and medication management
Recurring conditions like migraines or urinary tract infections
Urgent care issues like colds, coughs, and stomach aches
Treatment and follow-up appointments for attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Physical therapy and occupational therapy
Remote monitoring services that help you track your health goals and manage chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
Your health care provider may also ask you to send information that will help improve your health:
Your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, or vital information
Images of a wound, or eye or skin condition
A diary or document of your symptoms
Medical records that may be filed with another health care provider, such as X-rays
Health care providers can send you information to manage your health at home:
Notifications or reminders to do rehabilitation exercises or take medication
New suggestions for improving diet, mobility, or stress management
Detailed instructions on how to continue your care at home
Encouragement to stick with your treatment plan
Virtual visits are growing in popularity. Though in-person office visits may be necessary in certain cases, there are many benefits of telehealth care.
Limited physical contact reduces everyone’s exposure to COVID-19
Virtual visits ensure you get health care wherever you are located – at home, at work or even in your car
Virtual visits cut down on travel, time off from work, and the need for childcare
Virtual health care tools can shorten the wait for an appointment
Increased access to specialists who are located far away from your hometown
Telehealth is not a perfect fit for everyone or every medical condition, but it is moving in the right direction. Telehealth has the potential for better coordinated care. New applications are popping up every day that provide telehealth services directly in the app.
Hands holding smart phone with video call on screen image
Doctor holding and using digital tablet image
To learn how remote monitoring of the eye has evolved during the start of the pandemic, please visit How Remote Monitoring of the Eye is Evolving During this Pandemic