The Potential Benefits of Telehealth for Patients
Patients and practices can continue to enjoy the benefits of telehealth long after the current public health crisis is over.
The recent public health emergency has illuminated the need for telehealth services and the benefits of telehealth for patients. This technology has proven its worth in places where sometimes it is the only option. And its use cases and benefits can now be applied on the frontlines of a global pandemic. But the benefits of telehealth for patients stretch beyond our current situation. Not only does it have the potential to benefit many patients, it could become a game-changer for practices looking for more ways to engage patients and improve efficiencies.
Telehealth Benefit #1: Helps Ease Patients’ Anxieties
When patients have questions or concerns about their own health or the health of a loved one, the next logical step is to call their doctor. Sometimes, all it takes is a quick phone call to ease the patient’s mind. In other cases, where the doctor needs to do a quick evaluation, explain test results or walk the patient through something more complex, telehealth—and particularly real-time video conferencing—can provide that much-needed personal touch. Helping you, your patients, and their caregivers make decisions—and helping to alleviate anxieties in the process.
Telehealth Benefit #2: Offers Convenience and Flexibility
For some patients, doctor appointments are more than a minor inconvenience. Every patient has responsibilities: work to do, family to care for, etc. But what about patients who have mobility challenges, chronic conditions, vulnerable immune systems or who do not live close to their doctor or specialist? And what about those who need transportation, caregiver assistance or a babysitter? Telehealth cannot always replace the traditional patient-doctor encounter but it has the potential to overcome these challenges in many situations offering a convenient, quick video check-in from the comfort of the patient’s home.
Telehealth Benefit #3: Helps Prevent Unnecessary Trips to the Doctor
Telehealth can be used to pre-screen patients for doctor visits to determine who needs to come to the office for an in-person appointment or surgery now and who can be rescheduled or delayed.
Telehealth can also help facilitate the conversations that need to happen between doctors and patients, so they can make these important decisions together.
Telehealth Benefit #4: Helps Patients Get Care Outside of Normal Business Hours
Some doctors and specialists find it necessary to offer patients a way to communicate with them outside of normal business hours. The benefits to the patient are obvious, they can seek care and ask questions when they need you. Also, with telehealth, you can see your patient in person, so it’s easier for you to assess their situation, make a diagnosis and send prescriptions if needed.
Telehealth Benefit #5: Reduces the Risk of Transmission
Public health emergency or not, patients with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems know that every trip to the doctor’s office, urgent care center or hospital could put them at risk.
Hospital-acquired infections occur in nearly 5% of hospital admissions, and for older immunocompromised patients, the rate is much higher. Some of these infections are due to hospital equipment and interventional procedures. Others are transmitted by patients, doctors and other healthcare providers. This issue became paramount at the onset of COVID-19 when Italian hospitals became not only a place where COVID-19 was treated but also the source of many new infections among non-COVID-19 patients.
Staying at home during a public health emergency and receiving treatment in the form of telehealth services is not something that can completely replace a hospital or doctor visit. But telehealth can play a role in the patient’s care plan, especially when it comes to scheduling regular follow-ups and check-ins before and after medical treatments and procedures. Telehealth can help ensure that these vital communications happen (often in a more cost-effective manner), helping to reduce the risk of transmission and supporting continuity of care.
Telehealth Benefit #6: Helps Rural Patients Connect to Care
According to the CDC, people who live in the rural U.S. are more likely than their urban counterparts to “die prematurely from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke.” However, telehealth and other home-based services have shown promise in helping rural residents, particularly those with transportation or mobility issues, stay connected to specialists and other doctors. Telehealth can also help doctors monitor patients with chronic conditions remotely.
For example, many urban residents have access to diabetes, self-management and support (DSMES) programs. These programs help city dwellers stay on top of their diet, stay active, remember to take medications, check their blood sugar and cope with stress. Historically, rural areas of the country have had a higher rate of diabetes, and less access to these programs.
However, in recent years, technology has begun to level the playing field. For example, findings from a 2014 study in Utah concluded that “telemonitoring improved clinical outcomes and may be a useful tool to help enhance disease management and care of patients with diabetes and/or hypertension.”
Now, technology has taken an even more significant role in helping patients manage their own health with the rise of online coaching programs and health-related tracking apps.
Telehealth Benefit #7: Gives Patients More Access to Specialists
Whether the patient is dealing with a common condition or a rare disease, having the right specialist on their care team can make all the difference. This is especially pertinent to patients who live in rural areas, where medical resources are limited, and certain conditions require coordination from care centers and specialists located elsewhere. But it’s not just rural patients who benefit. Patients who live in urban or suburban areas may not be close to the specialist they need.
These remote specialists can receive test results and images from the patient’s local care team and provide medical directives and consultation. Telehealth services can also provide a way for doctors to coordinate care between locations, so patients can travel to another location to receive a specialized treatment or procedure and be able to follow up with their care team at home.
As you can see, there are many telehealth benefits for patients. Telehealth removes many of the barriers patients face in getting access to the care they need and helps them connect with their doctor.
And that doesn’t have to change once the curve has finally flattened. Doctors and patients can continue to connect and reap the benefits of telehealth long after the current public health crisis is over.
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This blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice. Please consult with your legal counsel and other qualified advisors to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and standards. It is each provider’s responsibility to determine that any telemedicine visit meets medical necessity for a given patient. Not all clinical scenarios may be appropriate for telemedicine visits, and the provider may need to evaluate the patient in person to establish a diagnosis or initiate treatment.