What is telehealth and is it right for me?

By Chris Fields and Dr. Sonja Fuqua

If you are only vaguely familiar with virtual healthcare or telehealth, then you must have been in a bubble or without access to technology for the past few years.  On the other hand, you may have recently entered the healthcare system with limited experience with healthcare services.

Although telehealth and virtual healthcare have been around for a while, prevalence increased at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the early months of the pandemic, physical access to all tangible resources was shut off. To safely access non-emergency healthcare people had to use a delivery platform that enabled them to access health care services remotely.

Telehealth vs Virtual Health?

Virtual health is just a facet of telehealth, but they are often used synonymously. The term virtual describes the delivery method used to receive your healthcare services, which is online and digitally. Telehealth references f the technology used to deliver your healthcare services. For example, with telehealth you can receive healthcare services online, via text messaging, phone call, or any other method that allows you access to healthcare services without having to be in the same room and place as the healthcare provider delivering the healthcare service. Some telehealth services don’t even have to be delivered in real time. At H.E.A.L. Mississippi, we use virtual health because it encompasses more of our service delivery platform. Check us out a www.healmississippi.com.

Brief Telehealth History

One of the initial reasons for telehealth was to provide rural access to specialty providers generally found in densely populated areas. Patients receiving telehealth care services often experience better and faster healthcare than their face-to-face counterparts. The ease of access allowed for more frequent and thorough provider-patient encounters.

Despite these results, consensus of healthcare service delivery remained structured around face-to-face provider-patient interactions. Insurance payer reimbursements favored face-to-face delivery over telehealth. Although telehealth gained traction in the 2010’s as far as popularity and clinical outcome improvement, widespread consensus remained with face-to-face delivery up until the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Payment parity between telehealth and face-to-face interactions were lifted to promote the use of telehealth services among providers due to necessity. Although we are on the other side of the pandemic, some of the necessary changes made remain in place.

Benefits of Telehealth and Is It Right for Me

The main benefit of telehealth is easy access to quality healthcare services. When someone is diagnosed with a chronic disease, they require more frequent care to improve their health outcomes. The level of care required to improve or manage the condition depends on the disease itself and the factors that contribute to that condition. For example, just to manage their condition, it’s recommended that a person newly diagnosed with diabetes have quarterly visits with their provider, 12 to 16 hours of diabetes self-management training along with 6 visits with a dietitian for medical nutrition therapy. . This recommendation doesn’t even include the recommended treatment to address other conditions that may have contributed to the development of diabetes. This is a lot of back and forth to see your healthcare team, but telehealth makes it easier and more convenient for you to receive the level of care you need to improve your health.

Here are some other benefits:

  • It can save you a trip to the ER. Trips to the ER are often unnecessary, inconvenient, and unsafe as you may get exposed to an infectious disease while waiting to be treated for something else.
  • You can access your healthcare team from anywhere, so you won’t have to take off work, find a babysitter, or miss out on events.
  • You can get faster appointments. Our Virtual Urgent Care Center allows for same day appointments often within an hour to two-hour window.
  • You can receive better assessments which can lead to higher quality care, especially from us at H.E.A.L. Mississippi.

Whether or not it’s right for you will be for you to decide. Although using telehealth doesn’t eliminate having to go to a healthcare facility altogether, it does provide comfort and convenience when the level of care you require exceeds annual visits. It can also be a safer and more effective alternative than an unnecessary trip to the ER or to an urgent care facility.