Modern healthcare is increasingly moving away from in-office visits. Except for physical exams and surgeries, medical professionals are able to use digital technologies to diagnose, treat, and oversee their patients’ care virtually.
By definition, telehealth is the delivery of health care services at a distance through the use of technology. It encompasses more than telemedicine, which only includes the remote delivery of health care. Telehealth also includes the training and continuing education of medical professionals.
According to McKinsey, telehealth claims remain at 38% higher than before the pandemic, and 84% of physicians are offering it. Experts believe improving consumer and provider attitudes, regulatory changes, and investment contributes to the sector’s sustained growth.
Telehealth can be delivered in one of three ways:
- Synchronous—when the doctor communicates with the patient in real time via computer or telephone
- Asynchronous—when data, images, or messages are recorded to share with the doctor later
- Remote patient monitoring—when measurements such as weight or blood pressure are sent to the healthcare provider
The Benefits of Telehealth
Using technology to deliver health care has several advantages, including cost savings, convenience, and the ability to provide care to people with mobility limitations or those in rural areas who don’t have access to a local doctor or clinic. Currently, 76 percent of hospitals in the U.S. connect doctors and patients remotely via telehealth, up from 35 percent a decade ago.
Almost three-quarters of Americans surveyed said that COVID-19 has made them more likely to try virtual care. And one in four Americans over age 50 said they’d had a virtual healthcare visit during the first three months of the pandemic, up from just four percent of older adults who’d had a remote visit the previous year.
Telehealth is also considered a regular healthcare service. In most cases, it should be billable to your health care insurance without issue.
Specific Benefits for Patients
For patients, some specific benefits of telehealth include:
- Lower costs: Some research suggests that people who use telemedicine spend less time in the hospital, providing cost savings. Also, less commuting time may mean fewer secondary expenses.
- Improved access to care: Telemedicine makes it easier for people with disabilities to access care. It can also improve access for other populations, including older adults and people who are geographically isolated.
- Preventive care: Telemedicine may make it easier for people to access preventive care that improves their long-term health.
- Convenience: Telemedicine allows people to access care in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.
- Slowing the spread of infection: Telemedicine eliminates the risk of picking up an infection at the doctor’s office.
Specific Benefits for Healthcare Providers
Healthcare providers who offer telemedicine services may gain several benefits, including:
- Reduced overhead expenses: Providers who offer telemedicine services may incur fewer overhead costs. For example, they may pay less for front desk support or be able to invest in an office space with fewer exam rooms.
- Additional revenue stream: Clinicians may find that telemedicine supplements their income because it allows them to provide care to more patients.
The Disadvantages of Telehealth
Telehealth offers a convenient and cost-effective way to see your doctor without having to leave your home, but it does have a few downsides.
- It isn’t possible to do every type of visit remotely. You still have to go into the office for things like imaging tests and blood work, as well as for diagnoses that require a more hands-on approach.
- The security of personal health data transmitted electronically is a concern.
- While insurance companies are increasingly covering the cost of telehealth visits during the COVID-19 pandemic, some services may not be fully covered, leading to out-of-pocket costs.
If you prefer a more personal relationship, telemedicine might not be an option for you. Certain types of illnesses and problems require a face-to-face physical assessment. You may not even get a chance to videoconference with the specialist.
For people with anxiety about leaving the house, chronic medical conditions that make catching infections dangerous, and contagious diseases, remote care may mean the difference between prompt treatment and no treatment at all.
Though no service is perfect, telemedicine is a positive and growing medical treatment option. Studies continue to show that telemedicine saves time, money, and lives. With the rapidly rising cost of healthcare, and the fact that’s it nonexistent in some places, the need for telemedicine continues to grow.
Everyone’s healthcare needs are unique, and talking to an expert is crucial while selecting the right coverage for you and your family. Simple Health Quotes has an experienced customer support team specializing in comprehensive insurance plans.