Telehealth: Why Is It Important during This Pandemic?


Is there a working adult who doesn’t own a smartphone nowadays? Given this era of modern technology, even as young as 10 and as old as 70 has a phone of their own. Gadgets and social media know no age and boundaries. That’s why even hospital visits are done online.

Almost everything these days can be done online, especially during this pandemic. From distance learning to food deliveries, everything is possible with smartphones and computers. And, during this pandemic, doctors’ consultations can also be online.

Online doctor’s consultation was already a thing even before the pandemic. In 2018, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology reported that Americans have been using their gadgets for their medical needs. Such online medical transactions include:

· Tracking their health bills and other charges

· Filling out documents for their health care needs

· Making appointments with their doctors or in booking procedures

· Talking to their health provider or thru text messaging

· Looking for health care providers online

These online medical transactions brought convenience not only to the patients. It also cut the long processes in hospitals and medical centers. It made it more efficient and convenient for doctors, nurses, and medical staff.

What is telehealth?


According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, telehealth is the “use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.” And because people are afraid to get the virus, long-distance health care became the safest option for Americans.

According to a 2020 study by McKinsey & Company, there was a sudden rise of interest in telehealth due to the pandemic. From February 2020 to April 2020, there was a 78% increase in the utilization of telehealth.

Most respondents are also still planning to go online for their medical needs. The majority of them are also satisfied with their online consultation experience.

Frequent consultations online in the past year involved concerns on:

· Urgent care

· Pediatrics

· Mental Health

· General Practice

· Dental Care

Some consultations involved the elderly and children. Both groups are at risk to COVID-19. This is why long-distance care is perfect, given that they do not have to go out and risk getting infected by the virus.

Telehealth consultations may vary depending on the concern and the hospital department involved. They also depend on the condition and the technology needed for the concern. The most common modalities include the synchronous modality, where telephone conversation or a live video call is involved. The patient uses a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Asynchronous modality involves the collection of health information. This is done through the exchange of messages, photos, and videos. Usually, the patient sends their health information via messaging. The health care provider acts on it by storing the information and by giving an assessment. Any data sent and stored are kept confidential despite the online exchange.

Remote patient monitoring is direct monitoring of the patient’s condition. The health care provider, on the other hand, gives real-time medical advice. It’s like the typical parent-doctor consultation in the hospital, only it is done online without visiting the hospital.

Is telehealth for you?

There are health concerns that can be assessed and addressed online. Some cases cannot.

Here’s what you should consider when choosing between telehealth or hospital visit:

· Is it an emergency?

Non-emergent cases can wait. If the patient’s condition does not require urgent attention, you may try consulting online first. The doctor will then assess whether there is a need to bring to the hospital or not. Remember, though, that emergencies rooms are full of COVID-patients these days. If the condition can wait, then it is recommended to seek online consultation first.

· Can the assessment be accurate if done online?

Some diagnoses need equipment that only hospitals or clinics have. There are cases when the doctor would have to see the patient physically. They have to examine the patient before giving an assessment. There are also cases where the patient needs to do laboratory tests. Since not all medical equipment is portable, there is a need sometimes to visit the hospital. Yet, consulting online before the hospital visit can set your expectations.

You might worry if telehealth can work. Data shows it does. Even the health care providers and the government recommend it to be a safe option for medical consultation. It will not only keep you safe from possibly getting infected in the hospital. It will also free up hospitals that are already working at full capacity during this pandemic.

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