A revolution is about to happen in your health care. It’s called “Telehealth.” The good news is you’ll probably love it – but it may take some getting used to.
Mayo Clinic describes it as “using digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to manage your health and well-being.” Telehealth is good news for better health care and lower costs.
Many patients can now access the internet for support with their health care. Patients will increasingly be able to access information on their conditions, and research medications and treatment options. They will be able to gain remote access to their own records and appointments. When patients are able to schedule and monitor their visits online, they don’t need to call or walk in. They’re also not limited to office hours.
Online visits and Video-conferencing
With the use of video-conferencing, many doctors can now consult with patients remotely. This saves money for both patients and doctors. Patients are relieved of the burden of transportation. They can also consult with doctors who normally would be geographically out of reach. Some healthcare providers now also offer video-conferencing for basic visits for minor issues. This is particularly advantageous to patients in rural areas.
UCLA did a study in which customers consulted their local clinic for care and then participated in a teleconferencing meeting with specialists. The patients actually reported higher satisfaction with the telehealth visits. They were found to be just as effective as in-person visits.
Blue Jeans Telehealth is one service that healthcare providers can implement for videoconferencing. With cloud-based telehealth services such as Blue Jeans, the benefits include reduced hospital and office visits for patients, reduced operational costs and more effective consultations. Professionals in rural areas can access more patients. This results in both savings and a more effective and efficient workflow. Healthcare professionals can also use teleconferencing to further their own education with reduced costs and travel time. Many learning centers now have programs specifically for telehealth education.
Electronic Health Records
Electronic health records are now becoming more available. Electronic health records, EHRs, medical charts can be share instantly and securely. They can be shared, not just online in the same healthcare system, but also to other providers. Any healthcare provider involved in a patient’s care can have access and share information.
Under the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) act, any provider that uses EHR technology is eligible for Medicaid incentives, including incentive payments from the government. Security measures to insure privacy are covered by HIPAA laws.
Monitoring Symptoms and Vital signs
Many smartphone applications, known as apps, are now used by patients to monitor symptoms and vital signs. Since nearly two-thirds of Americans now own smartphones, there is great potential for customers to utilize telehealth apps. In addition to fitness, weight management and diet apps, there are now apps that track symptoms. Some apps can measure heart rate and blood pressure. Diabetics can upload their own glucose readings on Glooko, track logs on Glucose Buddy, Fooducate will instantly retrieve nutritional information for food to manage diets.
When patients log their information on apps, they can then share it with their healthcare provider during visits. This saves time and gives healthcare providers more accurate information, rather than relying on patient memory. The pharmacy chain, Walgreens, recently launched their own telehealth app which will give customers 24/7 access to their doctors.
With the advancements in telehealth services now available, many healthcare providers are able to offer a streamlined solution for their patients and services. They save costs and expand the reach of providers. As the services of telehealth evolve, there is great potential for any healthcare provider to expand their services.