What Is Telehealth? The Quick Telehealth Guide

Telehealth is the use of digital technologies to deliver health education, medical care, and public health services by connecting multiple users in separate locations.

Some examples of telehealth could include:

  • physical therapy provided via digital monitoring;
  • a robotic surgery occurring through remote access;
  • patient to practitioner online consultation.

Benefits

There are many benefits to using telehealth, including:

  • better health outcomes;
  • access (lower transportation costs);
  • continuity of care;
  • care coordination;
  • communication (reduced readmissions);
  • increased patient satisfaction.

There are certain health conditions which may be suited to Telehealth, for instance, online video consultation:

  • persons with mental health issues requiring monitoring to promote their independent living in the community;
  • persons who are motivated to manage self-care when diagnosed with a chronic  illness;
  • persons receiving palliative – who may wish to minimize disruption to their life;
  • persons suffering a debilitating illness where travel can represent physical stress on wellbeing and health;
  • persons who are immunocompromised and may be best to avoid communal waiting rooms.

Telehealth also improves organizational productivity, for example:

  • due to the availability of telestroke programs, timely provision of treatments which effectively reverse the consequences of a stroke have risen from 15 to 85 percent;
  • telehealth monitoring programs for re-admission to hospitals within a month following a heart failure episode is less than 4 percent, but the national average is 20 percent;
  • by keeping patients stable through daily monitoring, home monitoring of chronic diseases reduces hospital visits by about 50 percent.

Note – it is important to acknowledge that Telehealth is not a type of medicine like family medicine, cardiology, or nursing, rather it is a way of delivering healthcare. Learn more about Telehealth benefits (especially on mental health) on Better Help.

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Cons

Telehealth has many benefits, however, there can also be some minor challenges, such as:

  • security and privacy – in an electronic setting, there may not be an understanding of the security measures required to ensure proper privacy;
  • regulations and rules – these occasionally create obstacles to adopting Telehealth technologies;
  • awareness – if a patient is not aware that Telehealth exists, he might not know you can access services through this technology;
  • internet connection – occasionally, the speed of the local internet connection is not fast enough to support Telehealth equipment.

Informing The Patient

Before conducting a Telehealth consultation, a healthcare professional should ensure that his patients understand how the consultation will proceed. The information may include:

  • indicating the length of the Telehealth consultation when compared to other available options;
  • informing sufferers of any out-of-pocket charges for Telehealth consultations;
  • informing sufferers of the other available care options;
  • providing the sufferer with plain language information about Telehealth.

Telehealth vs Telemedicine

The terms ‘telemedicine’ and ‘telehealth’ are frequently used interchangeably, however, they technically have different definitions.

The term “telehealth” includes a broad range of services and technologies to improve the healthcare delivery system as a whole and provide patient care. Common telehealth applications include:

  • home health;
  • occupational and physical therapy;
  • substance misuse counseling.

Telemedicine occurs using a telecommunication infrastructure between a physician and a patient (at an originating or spoke site). Basically, telemedicine is the practice of medicine using technology to deliver care at a distance. Some examples could include:

  • chronic disease care services, such as diabetes or hypertension;
  • home-monitoring for seniors;
  • transmission of medical images between healthcare centers for diagnosis.
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In conclusion, telehealth is different from telemedicine in that it refers to a broader scope of remote health care services than telemedicine.

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