What is Telehealth? How Can It Benefit Patients?

According to the Center for Connected Health Policy, telehealth can be defined as encompassing a broad variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services. Telehealth is not a specific service, but a collection of means to enhance care and education. For example, telehealth could be as simple as two healthcare professionals discussing a case over the phone or as sophisticated as doing robotic surgery between facilities at different ends of the globe. Common examples that are being used today include teleradiology, in which test results are forwarded to another facility for a diagnosis, continuing education for healthcare professionals, and supplements to home/hospital visits, which is especially useful for elderly patients. Frequently used applications and services include video conferencing, email, smart phones, streaming media, and mobile apps. So, what does that all mean for patients? It means patients can more easily integrate their healthcare into their daily life, instead of infrequent doctor’s visits. Thus, giving them a more efficient way to manage their ongoing care. Telehealth shows great potential for advancing preventative medicine and the treatment of chronic conditions.

Patient Benefits

  • Lower travel costs and miss work income savings to patients who would otherwise need to commute to an urban location
  • Home monitoring programs can reduce high cost hospital visits
  •  Specialists “team up” with local healthcare providers to improve disease management and improved disease management reduces complications and hospitalizations
  • Less time is spent by the patient in waiting rooms
  • Some doctors charge less for a telehealth consultation than they would for an average in-person visit
  • Telehealth has also been shown to reduce the need for hospital re-admissions, which can be an inconvenience for patients and are a significant expense to healthcare facilities
  • Patients can be diagnosed and treated more quickly in distant locations
  • Hospitalized patients whose care is supervised by a specialist via telehealth have the advantage of staying in their home community where family and friends can easily visit. Studies have shown that recovery is faster when patients are close to home
  • In some specialties, particularly in mental health and ICU care, telemedicine delivers a superior product, with greater outcomes and patient satisfaction
  • Test results can be quickly sent to specialists for second opinions
  • School based telehealth allows school nurses and other healthcare providers to serve more students at more locations
  • Can bring previously unavailable levels of care to remote or rural areas of the country and the world
  • Through Telehealth consults, patients are often able to participate in clinical trials unavailable in many rural areas.
  • Empowers patients to take an active role in their health care
  • Increases their confidence to stay independent and at home