Fitness Facts: Telehealth
By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
With the onset of COVID-19, the health care community needed to find ways to expand its services. Telehealth was a great place to start.
While telehealth has been around for quite some time, it has been under-utilized. But now is the perfect time to show the public how it can be extremely instrumental in providing care.
So … what is telehealth?
Telehealth is the use of communications technologies to provide health care from a distance. These technologies may include computers, cameras, videoconferencing, the internet, and satellite and wireless communications. Some examples of telehealth include:
- A “virtual visit” with a health care provider through a phone call or video chat
- Remote patient monitoring, which lets your provider check on you while you are at home. For example, you might wear a device that measures your heart rate and sends that information to your provider.
- A surgeon using robotic technology to do surgery from a different location
- Sensors that can alert caregivers if a person with dementia leaves the house
- Sending your provider a message through your electronic health record (EHR)
- Watching an online video that your provider sent you about how to use an inhaler
- Getting an email, phone or text reminder that it’s time for a cancer screening
Are there different forms of telehealth?
Sometimes people use the term telemedicine to mean the same thing as telehealth. Telehealth is a broader term. It includes telemedicine. But it also includes things such as training for health care providers, health care administrative meetings and services provided by pharmacists and social workers.
Why should I use telehealth?
Some of the benefits of telehealth include:
- Getting care at home, especially for people who can’t easily get to their providers’ offices
- Getting care from a specialist who is not close by
- Getting care after office hours
- More communication with your providers
- Better communication and coordination between health care providers
- More support for people who are managing their health conditions, especially chronic conditions such as diabetes
- Lower cost, since virtual visits may be cheaper than in-person visits
Telehealth is not perfect and does have limitations
Some of the problems with telehealth include:
- If your virtual visit is with someone who is not your regular provider, he or she may not have all of your medical history.
- After a virtual visit, it may be up to you to coordinate your care with your regular provider.
- In some cases, the provider may not be able to make the right diagnosis without examining you in person. Or your provider may need you to come in for a lab test.
- There may be problems with the technology; for example, if you lose the connection, there is a problem with the software, etc.
- Some insurance companies may not cover telehealth visits.
What are some appointments that can be done via telehealth?
- General health care, such as wellness visits
- Prescription refills
- Skin problems/dermatology
- Nutrition counseling
- Mental health counseling
- Urgent care conditions, such as sinusitis, urinary tract infections, common rashes, pink eye
- General health questions
For telehealth visits, just as with an in-person visit, it is important to be prepared and have good communication.
Check with your health care provider to schedule! Canyon Health and Wellness and Cigna currently offer low cost telehealth visits.