We are living in extraordinary times. But, it's not all bad news. You've probably heard the phrase, "necessity is the mother of invention." It's especially true that medical necessity, driven by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, is the mother of healthcare transformation. Telehealth is one solution working to revolutionize how people worldwide receive timely, effective, and safe access to quality care.
Coronavirus is responsible, in large part, for the rapid adoption of telehealth, or virtual care, by both patients and providers. Leading healthcare experts believe it can help slow the spread of the virus by limiting patient and provider exposure to illness and offering rapid triage for patients in distress. Now, more than ever, it's in your best interest to understand the on-demand care available, the benefits, and how you can get the most out of virtual care. What is telehealth?
The New England Journal of Medicine defines telehealth as "the delivery of health care, health education, and health information services via remote technologies." For the most part, this technological advancement in care takes place using video conferencing over the Internet.
You can participate by using a personal computer with a webcam, or a smart mobile device (phone or tablet) with a built-in video camera. This way, you connect to providers from the safety and convenience of your home or any location outside a doctor's office or hospital.
There is a seemingly endless list of virtual services available to the savvy patient. A few of the most popular include primary care, prescription management, mental health counseling, care for urgent conditions like bladder or ear infection, and preventive health screenings. There is even a health organization offering a telehealth screening for Coronavirus.
The top 6 benefits you gain from virtual care
You may already recognize several of the significant advantages of remote care. Below are the top 6 benefits you'll receive with your first telehealth appointment: 1. Less exposure to illness. Patients can remain in the comfort and convenience of their homes. With a video visit, there's no chance of exposure to further disease from another patient. 2. Added convenience. Did you know, the average wait time in the U.S. to see a doctor is 29.3-days? Virtual visits save you time traveling to and from appointments and waiting in an office for the doctor to see you. 3. No transportation time or costs. Visits using your mobile device or computer save you money on gas, parking, and public transportation. 4. No need to take time off of work. You can schedule your appointment during a break, or before or after work. 5. Eliminate child or eldercare issues. Virtual visits allow you to see your doctor while managing your family responsibilities. 6. Improved access to care. Patients living in remote or rural areas can access care from providers at any location.
How to choose the best provider to meet your virtual care needs
Before you dive into the pool of virtual providers, take a minute to identify the features that matter most to you. Compare costs, patient ratings, and ease of use. It's also a good idea to check with your health insurance plan. They will help you identify the telehealth services and providers covered under your benefits. You may be surprised at your expanding options.
Here are a few of the providers leading the way in telehealth: • Amwell. Doctor visits 24/7 using your phone, tablet, or computer. • Ro. This patient-driven telehealth company offers a free online telehealth assessment for COVID-19. • 7 cups of tea. Online therapy and counseling. • MDLIVE. Virtual visits with a doctor through its mobile app, online, and by phone. • Doctor on Demand. Access to US-based, board-certified physicians, and licensed psychiatrists and psychologists. • Anytime, Pediatrics. Video appointment with a trusted board-certified, local pediatrician. • The virtual checklist: tips for a better telehealth visit
Selecting a provider is just the first step in ensuring a successful experience. Here are a few tips for success. • Share any pre-visit information requested such as current symptoms or changes in conditions • Identify a place in your home that is quiet, has good reception, and is well lit. • Make sure the smartphone, computer, or tablet you plan on using is "on" and fully charged. • Have your health insurance card available in case your existing benefits cover the service. • Gather your prescription bottles, lab results, and jot down any questions you want to ask. • Have the names and phone numbers of your doctors handy • Wear the proper clothing in case your provider is visually assessing wounds, rashes, or swelling.
Easy steps to connect to virtual care
Whether you're an experienced telehealth patient or a novice, it's easy to get connected. All you need to get started is a smartphone, tablet, or computer with a microphone and camera. Next, follow these easy steps: Before your visit:
• Check with your provider about the specific app they use to connect patients to live video. • Be sure to download the correct app on your chosen device. During your visit: • Make sure you don't have any network issues. • Use your WI-FI connection for the best video quality. • Be aware data rates may vary depending on your cell phone plan.
Transforming the future of care, virtually
The tremendous challenges facing healthcare today, while overwhelming, are driving positive transformation. According to analysts at Forrester Research, virtual healthcare interactions are on track to top 1 billion by year's end. If you're looking for a safe, convenient, and cost-effective way to access care, telehealth may be the best solution for you.