With doctor's offices and urgent cares closed across the country, many providers are now offering online services, or “telehealth offerings.” Today, we explain how it works and how you can use it to take care of your health in quarantine.

 

What is telehealth?

 

Telemedicine, or telehealth, is a way to deliver high quality healthcare from a distance using technology. It typically focuses on diagnosis and clinical management, because obviously certain procedures cannot be conducted over a Zoom call. There are two types of telehealth offerings. Asynchronous telehealth involves the exchange of health information at different times, for example, sending your dermatologist a picture of a weird looking mole for her to evaluate. Synchronous telehealth involves real-time conversations with health professionals, for example, meeting with your therapist over Skype. 

 

This sector of the health industry has been growing rapidly over the last few years, seeing remarkable success in developed and developing countries alike. This technology has been especially helpful in more rural areas, where the nearest doctor’s office or hospital may be hours away, or people need access to a medical specialist that would require extensive travel to react. 

 

While this may seem like a more unique case, the recent coronavirus pandemic has certainly brought telehealth into the mainstream. The White House Coronavirus Task Force has recommended that all elective or nonessential procedures be delayed. In light of shutdowns across the country, telehealth is becoming an increasingly valuable option to provide people with access to their medical professionals, without contributing to the spread of COVID-19. Yes, we are in the middle of a pandemic, but people still need access to their therapists, lactation consultants, and general practitioners. Telehealth allows medical professionals and patients alike to conduct appointments in a safe and responsible way. 

 

Benefits of Telehealth:

 

1. It’s convenient

 

You don’t have to leave the house and wait in long lines at the doctor’s office or urgent care facility. This alleviates time pressure for people who are busy, or far away from the medical professional they need to see. If you are facing inclement weather or have a serious health condition and can’t travel, no problem! You can receive medical care from the comfort of your own home.

 

2. It is accessible

 

Whether you live on a farm in a rural area, or in an apartment in the city, as long as you have wifi, you have access to telehealth. This also means these offerings are available to people with mobility issues or disabilities that make it difficult for them to leave the house. Additionally, these are great for people who are caretakers of children or relatives requiring supervision, and who might have otherwise not been able to leave home to go to the doctor’s office. 

 

3. It keeps you safer from possible infection

 

A telehealth appointment allows you to avoid the waiting room at the doctor’s office. If you just have questions about a minor health issue, or need a routine checkup, it is in your best interest to avoid exposure to people who may be sick and infectious. 

 

4. Keeps medical professionals protected from possible infection

 

At a time like this, the health of medical professionals is incredibly important. Using 

telehealth offerings not only protects you from infection but also protects your doctors 

and nurses from any infections you may be carrying without realizing. 

 

5. Increases accessibility to specialty care

 

Telehealth allows patients to get into contact with medical specialists who may have otherwise been too far away to see. It alleviates the burden and cost of having to travel for specialized medical care. Especially at a time when travelling can be dangerous for people with existing medical conditions, this is a valuable benefit.

 

6. It can be used to contact a range of providers

 

Telehealth has a broad applicability in many domains beyond strictly medical uses. For example, you can use telehealth appointments to reach therapists, outpatient programs, nutritionists, and other providers whose offices might otherwise be closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when we as a society are collectively under an incredible amount of stress, access to this kind of care becomes especially important. 

 

7. It can be an incredible resource

 

One of the biggest benefits of telehealth is that it’s super adaptable. Here at Binto, we offer telehealth consulting services to connect you with providers for all your health needs. If you just have a quick question, you can chat with our nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. To learn how to build a healthy foundation with diet tips and lifestyle changes, you can chat with our registered dieticians or nutritionists. If you’ve recently given birth and are having a hard time with breastfeeding, you can chat with our lactation consultants. To learn more about our telehealth services, click here. Whatever your needs are, we are here to support you however we can. 

 

Nurse Suzie’s Top Telehealth Tips:

 

For many, voyaging into telehealth can be daunting. To get the most out of your online appointments, here is Nurse Suzie’s advice:

 

  • Make sure you have strong wifi! If your video or audio is cutting out in the middle of your meeting, it won’t be as helpful as you want it to be, so try to set yourself up close to your router, or somewhere with a strong signal. 

 

  • Book with a provider that matches your needs. Like any meeting with a medical professional, you want to make sure they have expertise in the area you are coming to them for. If you are looking for a clinical 

 

  • Pick a provider that is properly licensed and make sure the platform is HIPAA compliant. There are a lot of laws that govern the practice of medicine and the use of medical information. When transitioning to telehealth, you want to make sure you are using resources that respect those laws and keep your information private. 

 

  • Check to see if your current provider is set up for telehealth. If you can, it is best to continue with the provider you were already working with for consistency of care and proper monitoring, especially if you are pregnant. 

 

  • Check with your insurance provider to see what telehealth offerings they cover. Some might cover telehealth providers, like Binto, even if they are out of network. Many insurance providers are updating their policies in the wake of COVID-19, so it won’t hurt to reach out and double check. 

 

  • Use video when possible. Interpersonal communication is such an important part of creating a working relationship with your doctor. Without video, they can’t see your body language or facial expressions, which may make it harder for them to be sure they are communicating with you effectively. 

 

  • Pick your appointment times carefully. If you are dealing with a hectic home environment, be it taking care of children, pets, or working from home, your attention might be stressed pretty thin. When dealing with your health, you want to make sure you are in a place to concentrate fully i.e. not squished in between meetings or right at dinner time. Your meeting with your healthcare provider will be much more productive if you pick a time when you can focus. 

 

  • If you have specific questions, write them down beforehand. During the course of the meeting, it can be easy to forget what you initially wanted to know, so writing down your questions helps you make sure you get what you wanted out of your appointment. 

 

Telehealth is a great way to stay in contact with healthcare professionals during this pandemic, but it also has the potential to change the way we have our appointments into the future as well. It’s convenient, it’s cost-effective, and it eliminates a lot of barriers that prevent people from accessing the healthcare they need. That being said, for obvious reasons, telehealth is not a solution to emergency medical treatment. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, you should call 911 immediately. 

 

As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or just want to chat, you can schedule a free telehealth consultation here, or reach out to one of our nurses in the chat! 

Sources: 

https://www.healthit.gov/faq/what-telehealth-how-telehealth-different-telemedicine

https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/telemedicine/index.html

https://www.who.int/goe/publications/goe_telemedicine_2010.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK215247/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-telehealth-help-flatten-the-curve-of-covid-19-2020032419288

 

 

 

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