Telehealth is “the distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies.” It allows long-distance patient and clinician contact, care, advice, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions. Also known as Telemedicine, Telehealth is more than just a virtual face-to-face meeting with a physician who is far away. It involves a number of different modalities which empower a physician with real-time information so that he or she can provide the best care possible, despite the distance from the patient.
A physician will combine this exam with the patient’s medical history, which the doctor views using a web portal. If the doctor needs additional information from testing, the patient can visit a testing facility local to him or her, which will then forward the results to the doctor, or any professional that needs to read it. After gaining all of the necessary information, the doctor will make a firm diagnosis.
Telehealth is useful for patients who need help with a number of specific conditions. We list a few of them here with explanations as to why a physical examination is often not necessary. Some of these conditions are acute and some are chronic; many chronic conditions can be managed effectively using telehealth. If you are experiencing an emergency, dial 9-1-1; do not attempt to reach someone using a telehealth service.
Anxiety, depression, and various other mental conditions typically do not require any physical contact with the patient. Your mental health provider should be able to diagnose and treat your condition remotely without too much trouble. Some patients may have reservations related to cybersecurity when discussing personal matters. But with the right encrypted connection, a patient can have confidence that the confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship can be preserved.
When a patient has an infectious illness, there is some benefit to examining him or her physically. However, these benefits are more than outweighed by the opportunity to prevent infection of the doctor, his or her staff, and the other patients who will visit the office. Most of the tools a doctor can use to evaluate the patient can be applied remotely (temperature check, blood pressure, etc.).
Once the patient has been diagnosed with chronic pain, there is often little need to return to the office. Virtual visits, the pharmacy, and the patient portal are normally sufficient to provide the doctor(s) with status updates regarding the condition of the patient, and make necessary changes to one’s treatment.
Often, an upset stomach, diarrhea, or urinary tract infection can make visiting a doctor a challenge. A doctor can usually evaluate a patient suffering from such a condition with an oral exam. At that point, he or she can write a prescription or make other recommendations.
Telehealth is excellent for people who fit certain profiles. Some people live in remote areas with no access to a good doctor. Others require an examination from a specialist, but don’t have one local to them. People who have limited mobility may find it useful, as may those who have certain responsibilities which may preclude them from leaving home for a doctor visit.
As mentioned earlier, some people may not be entirely comfortable with discussing confidential information over digital platforms. Some people may have a reason to get away from their home environments to discuss personal information, and a doctor’s office represents a safe location (as in the case of abuse). And certain people simply feel more comfortable talking to a doctor in person.
There are different ways of signing up for telehealth services. If you have a major insurance carrier, that carrier will often provide a link to a webpage that allows you to sign up for telehealth services. If you are interested, you simply click on the link and follow the prompts. If you want to learn more about the service or what it covers, most questions will be answered on the site. If not, you can call the customer service number. The great benefit about getting telehealth through your insurance is that you know your carrier will approve it.
This option will require you to do some digging. A simple internet search will likely identify any number of providers – local to you or not – who offer telehealth services. Once you identify a few that you might consider, you can contact them with any questions you may have. The most important question of course, is whether they take your insurance. Many providers do; always make sure.
Forms of Telehealth Services vary by modality and category of medicine. The four primary modalities of service are:
This form of service is simply acquiring data, say through an imaging test or screening, and then storing it digitally in the patient’s medical file and forwarding it to his or her provider.
This form of service collects live data from an individual, and sends it to a station for monitoring in real time. This means that your provider can examine your case remotely at any time, as can you.
This is simply using an interactive video platform to connect doctor and patient. In many cases, a visual exam is sufficient to identify and treat any significant problem.
Using smartphones presents a number of advantages over an-internet based platform. The handset is easily portable and usable, and relies on cell towers, which often make communication easier in remote areas.
At Essential Care New Jersey, we make telehealth available to our patients, because we believe in providing safe and effective options for treatment during these difficult times. We know that no one form of treatment works for everyone. If you have a mental or physical condition that requires care, give us a call. We are happy to help you through the signup process so that you can begin to set up your own appointments for telehealth. Once you’re in the system, using it is easy. We look forward to helping you.