Millions of Americans can access blood results, prescriptions and diagnoses online and on mobile apps. Telehealth is streamlining information gathering, storage and access, not only for patients, but for providers and insurers as well.
Just 10 years ago, patients had to access medical records through doctor’s offices. Today, patients can log on anytime and anywhere to view their medical history and recommendations from multiple providers.
Telehealth is the practice of using electronic information and telecommunications “to support and promote long-distance clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
This form of communication helps not only patients who need the convenience of easier access, but also doctors who can collaborate with each other in real-time from across the country.
Medical professionals have been utilizing telehealth for several years now, but as technologies advance, consumers are also demanding better solutions for their healthcare needs.
Telehealth Creates Convenience
Many apps exist that can link a patient directly with a doctor or nurse without even leaving your couch. These can save time and potentially money, if insurance carriers cover these types of virtual visits.
One such app, MDLive Telehealth, connects patients with board-certified physicians through a secure video chat or phone call. These doctors are able to assess symptoms and can also call in prescriptions. Pediatricians are also available to diagnose children’s issues.
First Opinion is another telehealth app that allows you to ask medical questions at any time of the day, which is convenient for those who need a question answered immediately, after hours or can’t get in to see their primary care physician.
According to Healthcare IT News, in the New York hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center, a telehealth express care service can get patients processed and in and out in 35 minutes, which has reduced ER wait times, as patients who were low on the triage list were waiting for two and a half hours.
Telehealth does have its limits, though – state laws vary, and some states do not permit telehealth providers to prescribe drugs like oxycodone or morphine.
Telehealth Provides Easier Access to Care
According to Medscape, experts say the telehealth industry could potentially be a $34 billion market by 2020. As healthcare costs and an aging baby boomer population continue to rise, medical innovation and process streamlining are becoming even more important.
Telehealth practices can also help reach people who don’t have fast access to healthcare, especially those in rural areas. For example, in West Virginia, lawmakers recently passed a bill allowing telemedicine providers to prescribe medications for mental and behavioral health. A West Virginia delegate, Matthew Rohrbach, mentioned in an interview with West Virginia Public Broadcasting that the state has “a tremendous problem with access to mental health providers, particularly for our pediatric population.”
Telehealth Facilitates Collaboration
Hospitals and other healthcare providers can also use telehealth protocols to communicate with other hospitals and specialists. The Mayo Clinic uses it to provide neonatology care to areas that otherwise wouldn’t have it, and through this strategy, they’ve been able to assist with difficult births and newborns that needed advanced resuscitation techniques.
“About 10% of babies will need some assistance to begin breathing after delivery, and one in 1,000 will need extensive resuscitation,” said Jennifer Fang, MD, in an interview with Healthcare IT News. “So in many community hospitals, these high-risk situations may only occur a few times each year… we know that newborns who require advanced resuscitation, especially very premature infants, have poorer outcomes when delivered at hospitals with lower levels of neonatal care.”
The Mayo Clinic can use the technology to bring experienced specialists to the infants without losing crucial time to travel, and the neonatologist can help across the country to give infants the best care possible.