Did you ever imagine a world where you could order groceries, schedule a dog walker, or complete a doctor’s appointment all from your couch?
While some of these services were frequently used before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the adoption of telehealth specifically increased due to stay-at-home orders, temporary office closures by various healthcare providers, and fears of catching the virus in a waiting room. In the first three quarters of 2020, $1.6 billion was invested in telemedicine – more than twice what was invested in all of 20191. Telemedicine shows no signs of slowing down, so what are the top things you need to know?
What is telehealth?
Defined by The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunication technologies to provide care when you and the doctor are not in the same place at the same time.”2 Simply put, telehealth allows you to have a virtual appointment with a healthcare provider, or send and receive messages with your provider. Instead of going to a doctor’s office or patient service center, you can stay home and chat with your healthcare provider via computer, smartphone, or tablet.
Why use telehealth services?
Raise your hand if you’ve ever put off a doctor’s appointment because you couldn’t find childcare, take a break from work or just didn’t have the time with everything you have going on. You’re not alone. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 40% people admitted to putting off appointments for various reasons3. With virtual appointments, you can stay on top of your health by staying home, or taking a quick break from work for a telehealth appointment and not waste precious time in your day. Additionally, as more healthcare providers adopt telehealth practices, you’ll have easier access to your information, appointment summaries, laboratory test results, and more.
What are the best use cases for telehealth appointments?
While telehealth appointments have many benefits, like reducing time spent commuting and sitting in a waiting room, or the option to fit an appointment into your schedule easier, there are times that telehealth may not be the best option.
The appointments that work well virtually include2:
- Routine check-ins with your healthcare provider
- A quick question about an existing medication
- Mental health treatment, including therapy or medication management
- Urgent care concerns including colds, coughs and stomach aches
For more urgent medical conditions including injuries, an allergic reaction, or other situations that require immediate medical attention, a trip to your nearest emergency room or urgent care is best.
How safe and secure are telehealth appointments?
Today so much of life happens online: banking, shopping, and paying bills. Cybersecurity is a hot topic and unfortunately, because we do so much online, the threat of cyber-attacks and hacks are always present. When it comes to healthcare, there is an extra layer of importance on security because of The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Many video communication products verify that they are HIPAA-compliant and help ease the minds of patients and healthcare providers4. If you’re concerned about keeping your health information safe, knowing that companies take your security seriously makes it easier to schedule telehealth appointments.
How Scarlet Health® closes the loop on telehealth
You can now add blood draws and other laboratory test collections to the list of things you can schedule and complete from the comfort of home. It’s true; with Scarlet®, a trained health professional visits you at home or work to collect your samples for laboratory testing. Test results will be sent to your healthcare provider and also uploaded to the HIPAA-compliant BioReference Patient Portal for your review.