Telehealth Becoming a Trend in the Healthcare Industry
The global emergency health crisis, known as COVID-19, has placed pressure on the healthcare industry to rapidly revise the traditional practice of patient care delivery. This highly contagious disease dramatically shifts the delivery of patient care commanding revisions to federal regulations, and healthcare organizations’ swift implementation of telehealth modalities.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) supports and recommends telehealth implementation, stating that “Shifting practices to triaging and assessing ill patients (including those affected by COVID-19 and patients with other conditions) remotely using nurse advice lines, provider “visits” by telephone, text monitoring systems, video conferences, or other telehealth and telemedicine methods can reduce exposure of ill persons with staff and minimize surge on facilities.”
What are Telehealth Delivery Methods?
Telehealth delivery methods are ways that patients, caregivers, and providers communicate medical care needs and can occur either synchronously or asynchronously.
This, also known as “real-time” communication, allows two-way communication between a patient, caregiver, and provider utilizing audiovisual telecommunication technology such as a smartphone, laptop, or desktop. These devices must have a camera and speaker capabilities for successful video communication. Synchronous encounters are considered the same as a traditional in-person encounter.
Communication does not occur in “real time”. There are various types of asynchronous telehealth communication.
- Mobile Health or mHealth is the provision of health care services and personal health data via a mobile device.
- Remote Patient Monitoring uses digital technology to collect patients’ vital signs and answer a series of questions that are tailored to their medical diagnosis and care needs. This also allows patients to transmit their medical data to a secured medical platform for review and interpretation by a healthcare provider.
- Store and Forward allow the electronic transmission of medical information such as digital images, documents, and pre-recorded videos through secure email communication.
In order for healthcare organizations and private providers to successfully transition to video conferencing, regulations and policies needed to be revised to enable reimbursement for telehealth services.
Broadening of Telehealth Delivery Methods
In the course of several weeks, COVID-19 arose and dramatically shifted the delivery of health care from traditional face-to-face encounters to virtual visits. Organizations and private practices are taking advantage of the change in federal policy and transitioning in-person medical appointments to virtual appointments.
Patients are now encouraged to call their providers before coming in for unscheduled appointments. Telehealth modalities are being leveraged to keep people with a positive COVID-19 result or suspected exposure at home under observation.
The COVID-19 health pandemic has shined a light on the convenience of telehealth appointments in lieu of in-person visits. It would be detrimental to return to “business as usual” and the traditional care model once this resolves, limiting access to health care and discontinuing telehealth in the process.