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What Is Telehealth? What Do I Need to Access Telehealth Services?

What Is Telehealth? What Do I Need to Access Telehealth Services?

Understanding the vital role of telehealth in the healthcare system. What is telehealth and how do you start receiving care?

Telehealth Explained

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth services have become an essential component of the healthcare system. While vaccines and booster shots have reduced the need to socially distance, telemedicine in health systems is likely here to stay. But what exactly is telehealth, and how can this virtual healthcare technology help patients receive a higher quality of care?

what is telehealth

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What is Telehealth?

Telehealthcare, or telehealth, is a way to meet with your medical providers virtually. Your treatment provider can use telehealth technology in hospitals or outpatient clinics to meet with you from the comfort of your own home. 

How Has Telehealth Evolved?

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a 63-fold increase in telehealth services among people with Medicare. Reports also show that there has been a 32-fold increase in behavioral telehealth services. 1  

Because of this drastic growth, telehealth technology in hospitals has expanded and evolved, making the telehealth experience for patients more convenient and secure than ever before.

The most significant advancements in telemedicine come from increased security and confidentiality. Using specialized remote telehealth programs, physicians can meet with their clients remotely while still adhering to HIPAA guidelines that ensure patient privacy.

Telemedicine vs. Telehealth

Is there a difference between telehealth and telemedicine? The definitions of telehealth and telemedicine in healthcare are quite similar. Telemedicine in health systems refers to clinical care: for example, seeing a physician about a new symptom or medical difficulty. Telehealth, while similar, is a broader category and could include administrative meetings for health providers or continued medical education in addition to telemedicine services.  2  

What Can Telehealth Treat?

Different types of telemedicine services can treat a variety of conditions. Most medical issues that do not require face-to-face healthcare services, such as a physical examination, can be treated through telehealth care. This includes issues such as:

  • Various types of skin conditions
  • Headaches
  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Mental health concerns
  • Chronic conditions, such as diabetes

For patients with the above symptoms or concerns, telehealth may prove to be an easier and more convenient option than meeting with a provider face-to-face.

Service of Telehealth

While most people think of telehealthcare as a way of addressing specific concerns, telehealth services can also be used for routine check-ups and scheduled visits. Such services may include:

  • Condition management and education
  • Medication management and refills
  • Mental health counseling or therapy
  • Regular check-ins for chronic illness

Moving these more common services to a telehealth model of care means people can avoid having to routinely visit hospitals or medical clinics for simple services.

What Are the Three Main Telehealth Modalities?

Telehealth technology in hospitals, clinics, and offices is made up of three key modalities that help providers interact with their patients. The three main telehealth modalities are:

Real-Time

Real-time telehealth services are what most people think of when they imagine telehealth care. Real-time services are virtual meetings with a doctor that are similar to a Zoom call or FaceTime conversation.

Unlike Zoom or FaceTime, telehealth technology uses specialized programs to ensure that when you meet with a physician, your conversation is confidential, secure, and adheres to the guidelines laid out by HIPAA. 

Store-and-Forward

Store-and-forward telehealth services are when a clinician collects certain data from a patient, then forwards it to a specialist. An example of a store-and-forward telehealth service might be meeting with a nurse to discuss your symptoms, collect demographic information, or take pictures of a rash or lesion. The nurse would then forward this information to a specialist who can diagnose the concern and develop a treatment plan.

Remote Patient Monitoring

The third form of telehealth modalities is remote patient monitoring, also known as telemedicine monitoring. This form of telehealthcare incorporates devices such as:  3

  • Scales 
  • Blood pressure monitors
  • Wearable fitness trackers
  • Pulse oximeters

These devices can upload information to your physician remotely. Your doctor can track your progress over time and reach out if they see reasons for concern. Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring often go hand in hand, as the benefits of telehealth are enhanced by these devices. 

Benefits of Telehealth

Telehealth services can provide a wide variety of benefits to patients, including:  4

  • Increased accessibility of services
  • Reduced hospitalizations
  • Cost-effectiveness for both the patient and the provider

Remote telehealth services can also help to ease the burden on hospitals or medical clinics with abundant in-person visits that lead to overbooking appointments.

How Can Telehealth Technologies Improve Care Models?

Telehealth can be utilized for a variety of different treatment options, including, but not limited to:

  • Addiction
  • Behavioral health
  • Diabetes management
  • Home health
  • Hypertension management
  • Musculoskeletal disorders

Beyond just providing patients with more convenient and accessible options, telehealth services can actually improve the quality of care that patients receive for these conditions. The primary purpose of telehealth is to create value-based care, which means it provides a tangible benefit to the people who use it.

In the specific case of addiction treatment, it may not be able to replace a residential treatment facility for most people, but telehealth can still play an vital role in outpatient or aftercare by providing an additional layer of accountability and support for patients after they have completed treatment. 

What Do I Need to Access Telehealth Services?

telehealth care

The purpose of telehealth is to make accessing care easier than ever, but you still need to prepare in order to reap all of the telehealth benefits. Before your first appointment, make sure to:

  • Add online appointments to your calendar
  • Have access to a good-quality camera
  • Test the camera in advance
  • Test the sound and video on your device
  • Use the best internet connection possible
  • Find a quiet space and adjust the lighting
  • Position yourself so that you are clearly visible
  • Prepare a list of questions about telehealth for your provider

If you need more telehealth help, contact your provider prior to your appointment. They may be able to help you troubleshoot any problems you have.

Find Out More About Telehealth at Genesis Recovery

We understand that in the treatment of substance use disorders, any tool that can enhance patient care is worth using.

If you would like to learn more about how Genesis Recovery utilizes telehealth services to enhance addiction and mental health services and treatment, please reach out to one of our trained addiction professionals.