There have been dramatic changes to the medical landscape since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. One of the most significant changes that practitioners have experienced is an increase in flexibility in administering telehealth patient services.
What is Telehealth?
The World Health Organization (WHO) applies telehealth and telemedicine synonymously to describe the use of information and communications technology to overcome geographical barriers to patient care to improve health outcomes. This definition accounts for both clinical and non-clinical functions.
In telehealth appointments, you connect remotely with a provider to seek diagnosis, treatment, or monitoring of your health concerns. Telehealth is best applied in situations where you’re seeking follow-up monitoring on a pre-existing condition, or your symptoms aren’t emergent.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Telehealth
Like anything, using telehealth for patient care comes with pros and cons.
Advantages of using telehealth include things like:
- Increased health care accessibility.
- Ability for greater collaboration among healthcare teams.
- Decreased risk for exposure to unrelated illnesses like COVID-19.
Disadvantages consist of factors such as:
- No physical exams performed.
- Risks for delayed care.
- Connectivity issues for patient or provider.
How to Schedule a Telehealth Appointment with Your Doctor
Telehealth appointments are generally booked by submitting a request through your provider’s patient portal or calling a medical office directly. Often, you’ll be required to complete some form of screening assessment related to your symptoms to determine whether a telehealth appointment will provide you with the necessary level of care needed for the condition in question.
What Patients and Providers Say About Telehealth
Although it may seem like telehealth would make medicine feel less personal, a study by Massachusetts General Hospital found that 62% of patients surveyed reported that telehealth visits were as positive as in-person visits, and 21% said they were better than traditional appointments. Clinicians also reported higher efficiency, and more than half agreed that appointments were comparable to those conducted in-person.
Temporary measures were put in place to extend telehealth access to more people during the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, but many medical leaders are pushing for long-term changes. As the healthcare environment continues to adapt, the need for trained medical professionals — both clinical and non-clinical — will only increase.
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