What exactly is the use of telehealth? We’re all aware that the internet has transformed modern life. And now, modern medicine as well. Telehealth has become recognized for its ability to help you manage health care as well as receive the services you might need.
What is Telehealth – What is it Used for?
Telehealth is known as the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers, mobile devices, or tables, in order to access healthcare services remotely and manage healthcare. These technologies may be used from home or by a doctor to improve or support health care services.
Take a moment to consider these examples showing the ways that telehealth could help an individual with diabetes. Some or all of the following could be done:
- Use a mobile phone or any other smart device to upload food logs, medications, dosing, and blood sugar levels to be reviewed by a nurse who would then respond electronically.
- To watch a video on carbohydrate counting and download an app to do it on your phone.
- Using an app to estimate, based on the patient’s diet and exercise level, how much insulin they may need.
- The use of an online patient portal that provides test results, schedules appointments, requests prescription refills, or emails the doctor.
- Order testing or medications online.
- Receive a mobile retinal photo screening at a doctor’s office rather than scheduling an appointment with a specialist.
- Receive emails, texts, or phone reminders when it is time for a flu shot, foot exam, or other preventive care.
Telehealth, which is also called e-health or m-health (mobile health), has the following goals:
- Make health care available and accessible to those who live in rural or isolated communities.
- Ensure that services are more readily available or convenient for individuals with limited mobility, time, or transport options.
- Provide access to medical specialists.
- Improve communication as well as coordination of care among members of a health care team and a patient.
- To provide support for the self-management of health care.
What is Telehealth Used for?
It is possible for your primary care clinic to have an online patient portal. This portal will offer an alternative to email, which is generally an insecure means to communicate about private medical information. These portals provide a more secure online tool to do the following:
- Communicate with a doctor or nurse.
- Request prescription refills.
- Review test results as well as summaries of previous visits.
- Schedule appointments or request reminders of upcoming appointments.
If your doctor belongs to a large health care system, the portal could also can also allow communication for any specialists you may need to see.
Certain clinics may provide virtual appointments that will enable patients to see a doctor or a nurse via online video conferencing. These kinds of appointments enable patients to receive ongoing care from their regular doctor when an in-person visit is not possible or required.
There are other virtual appointments that include web-based “visits” with a doctor or a nurse practitioner. This is often only available for minor illnesses, similar to the services that are available at a drop-in clinic. Some of the larger companies provide access to virtual doctors’ offices as a part of their health care offerings.
When a patient logs into a web-based service, they are guided through a series of questions. The doctor or nurse practitioner can then prescribe medications, suggest home care strategies, or recommend additional medical care.
Similar to a nursing call center that is staffed with nurses who use a question-and-answer format to provide advice for care at home. A nursing call center cannot diagnose illness or prescribe medications.
Although these services are extremely convenient, they may have some drawbacks:
- Treatment may not be coordinated and aligned with that of your regular doctor.
- Essential information in your medical history may not be considered when making a diagnosis.
- The computer-driven decision-making model may not be an optimal choice if you have a complex medical history.
- The virtual visits lack an in-person evaluation, which is necessary and could hamper an accurate diagnosis.
- The service does not always easily allow for shared doctor-patient decision-making about treatments or coming up with a plan B if an initial treatment did not work.
There are a variety of technologies that enable doctors or health care teams to monitor your health remotely. These technologies include:
- Web-based or cellphone apps can then be used for uploading information, such as blood glucose readings, to your doctor or health care team.
- Devices that not only measure but wirelessly transmit information, such as blood pressure, blood glucose, or lung function.
- Wearable devices that automatically record as well as transmit information, such as heart rate, sleep patterns, tremors, physical activity, or sleep patterns, posture controls.
- Home monitoring devices used by older people or people with dementia are used to detect changes in normal activities such as falls.
Communication Between Doctors
Doctors are also able to take advantage of the technology in order to provide better care for their patients. An example of this is a virtual consultation that allows primary care doctors to get input from other specialists when they are faced with questions or concerns regarding their diagnosis or treatment.
A primary care doctor could send exam notes, history, test results, X-rays, or other images to a specialist to review. The specialist may either respond electronically, conduct a virtual appointment with the patient at the doctor’s office, or request a face-to-face meeting.
These virtual consultations could prevent unnecessary in-person referrals to a specialist, reduce wait times for specialist input as well as eliminate unnecessary travel.
Personal Health Records
Known as a PHR system, an electronic personal health record system is a collection of information about a patient’s health that you can control and maintain as necessary. A PHR app is accessible to patients via a web-enabled device such as a computer, laptop, or smartphone.
In an emergency, personal health records prove useful by allowing emergency personnel to quickly retrieve vital information such as current diagnosis, medications, drug allergies as well as your doctor’s contact information.
Personal Health Apps
There is an extreme magnitude of apps available that have been created in order to help visitors better organize their medical information in one secure place. These digital tools may help patients with the following:
- Storing personal health information.
- Recording vital signs.
- Calculating and tracking calorie intake.
- Scheduled reminders for taking medicine.
- Recording physical activity, such as a patient’s daily step count.
This technology has the potential to improve the quality of health care as well as make it accessible to more people. Telehealth may provide various opportunities to ensure that health care becomes more efficient, better coordinated as well as closer to home.
The research done on telehealth is still relatively new, but it is, however, growing fast. An example of this is that studies have shown that both telephone-based support and telemonitoring of vital signs of individuals with heart failure reduced the risk of death as well as hospitalization for heart failure. It also supports the improved quality of life.
Telehealth and its Limitations
Although telehealth has the potential to better coordinate care, it also runs the risk of fragmenting health care. This fragmented care may lead to numerous gaps in care, overuse of medical care, inappropriate use of medications, or unnecessary or overlapping care.
The various potential benefits that telehealth services have to offer may be limited by other factors as well, being able to pay/afford them! Insurance reimbursement for telehealth will vary from state to state as well as the type of insurance. We should also mention who would benefit the most from this improved access to care may be limited because of regional internet availability or the cost of the mobile services.
In a Nutshell
Although telehealth is an amazing invention that could improve health care in areas that need it most, it does pose its own risks as well as challenges. The use of telehealth can, however, revolutionize how we make use of medical care as well as limit exposure to potential diseases and viruses that may be lurking in ERs and doctor’s waiting rooms.