Healthcare has been changing rapidly over the last few years amid the pandemic. From in-person appointments to telehealth, the healthcare landscape has shifted to meet patients’ needs better. One of the most significant changes has been the increased use of telehealth.
Telehealth uses digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access healthcare services remotely. This allows patients to receive care from providers without traveling to a healthcare facility. In this article, Sherief Abu-Moustafa shares a few ways telehealth has changed how people access healthcare.
Telehealth can improve access to care in several ways. First, it can help providers in rural or underserved areas reach more patients. These areas are often far from healthcare facilities, making it difficult for residents to get the care they need. With telehealth, these patients can receive care from specialists in other parts of the country without traveling long distances.
Second, it can help providers who speak different languages connect with patients who do not speak English. Thanks to technology, providers can use translation services to communicate with patients in their native language. This function is especially important for immigrants who may not feel comfortable communicating in English.
Third, telehealth can improve access to care for patients with disabilities. Patients who have difficulty traveling to a doctor’s office or clinic can receive care from the comfort of their own homes. Telehealth is a major improvement from past solutions, where these patients constantly had to rely on family or friends to take them to appointments.
According to the healthcare research and consulting firm, Altarum, Americans spend $89 billion on the costs of traveling and waiting for health-related appointments. This amount includes the cost of gas, parking, child care, and lost wages from taking time off work. Telehealth can help reduce these costs by allowing patients to receive care from the comfort of their own homes.
In addition to increased accessibility, telehealth can also increase convenience for people who cannot take time off work or find childcare to make it to appointments. With telehealth, people can see their providers during lunch breaks or in the evenings, outside traditional work hours.
Telehealth can also help patients who have difficulty making appointments on time. This is a significant advantage for busy parents or working professionals who have trouble finding time to see a doctor. With telehealth, these patients can schedule appointments that work around their busy schedules.
Sherief Abu-Moustafa believes this convenience also comes into play with mental health care. If you have a standing weekly therapy appointment, being able to see your therapist virtually from home can be a lifesaver on days when you’re feeling too anxious or depressed to leave the house. Busy parents can check in with a counselor while waiting in the car for their child’s soccer practice, or a stressed corporate professional can attend a session right before bed.
3. Patient Engagement
Patients are more likely to follow treatment plans when they can access care easily. Because of this, telehealth can improve patients’ overall health by increasing engagement in their care.
Patients who travel long distances or take time off work to see their providers are less likely to keep up with their care. This can lead to missed appointments and a decline in health. Telehealth can help prevent this by making it easier for patients to see their providers and stay on track with their care plans.
Telehealth can provide a less intimidating way to get care for patients who avoid doctors and hospitals. Patients can see their providers from the comfort of their homes, making them more likely to seek care when they have issues like the flu, a sinus infection, or back pain. Many people consider these to be minor issues, but they can quickly become major problems if left untreated.
4. Access to Specialists
Imagine you’re faced with a stomach condition requiring a gastroenterologist diagnosis. You live in a rural area, and the closest specialist is more than an hour away. However, the specialist that your primary doctor recommends is even farther. What are you supposed to do?
With telehealth, you can schedule appointments with multiple specialists to find the one that’s right for you without traveling long distances, taking off work, or paying for a hotel room. You can also get a second opinion from another specialist without having to go through the hassle of scheduling another appointment and making another trip. Sherief Abu-Moustafa recommends that patients take advantage of telehealth for routine check-up appointments, which can also help limit travel needs.
Telehealth is a convenient, affordable, and accessible way to receive healthcare. It can help people save time and money and increase engagement in their care. It can also provide access to specialists who might otherwise be out of reach. With the continued growth of telehealth, more people will be able to get the care they need without having to leave the comfort of their homes.