A few weeks ago, I briefly touched on the concept of telehealth as an option via services such as nurse lines provided by consumer health plans.
To start, we’ll create the baseline definition for telehealth: “a collection of means or methods for enhancing health care, public health, and health education delivery and support using telecommunications technologies,” according to the Center for Connected Health Policy.
More simply put, telehealth is when a doctor or nurse administers care for a patient over a distance.
“The young, wealthy, and busy” are the target demographic for telehealth, according to The Advisory Board:
- 54% of 18- to 29-year olds
- 49% of people making more than $71 thousand annually
- 53% of those working more than 35 hours per week
Perhaps most remarkably is that not only does telehealth expand the virtual network of a health network’s or medical group’s reach, but telehealth can cost up to 100 times less than a traditional office visit, according to Health IT Outcomes. A traditional office visit averages between $136 to $176 per visit, whereas an average telehealth visit averages $40 to $50 per visit.
Should a health consumer want to engage in a telehealth session, it will most likely be facilitated by a registered nurse, similar to the nurse line previously mentioned. Patients can now use apps or schedule an appointment the traditional way.
Whether you do have an appointment with a physician or registered nurse, it’s important that whomever is on the other end of the line has your medical records. If your telehealth visit is with your PCP, they most likely already have this information in their EHR. If your telehealth visit is not with your PCP’s office, you can have your medical records sent electronically in preparation for the virtual visit.
HIPAA-compliant, secure technology or telephones will serve as your connection mechanism to the provider. Each session can last from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on your symptoms and the kind of provider your speaking with. At the conclusion of the telehealth visit, you might be directed to an urgent care or emergency department, or a physician might e-prescribe medication to your pharmacy on file.
The top 5 reasons both patients and providers use telehealth are beneficial for all parties, according to liveClinic:
- Telehealth saves health consumers the travel and waiting room time, especially for patients who aren’t feeling well
- Telehealth broadens the well of experts available for health consumers who are no longer encumbered by geography, especially for rural patients
- Telehealth has become another way to rate providers for other health consumers
- Not only does telehealth allow nurses, physicians, and specialists to conference together in real-time, but it creates an avenue for obtaining a seamless second opinion
- Patients have 360-degree visibility with follow-up calls and chat, including lab reports
Telehealth is a burgeoning industry in the health IT space, and it offers many opportunities for health consumers to receive care—wherever they are.