The Growing Impact of Telehealth

woman using iPad for doctor appointment

Digital technologies continue to advance at a brisk pace, growing in importance within many aspects of our daily lives. These technologies, especially in lieu of the current global health crisis, are becoming critical communication tools for many businesses, including health care practices and hospitals, which are implementing these technologies that may be categorized into a growing collective realm of healthcare known as telehealth.

Telehealth incorporates using digital information and specific communication technologies, providing patients remote access to healthcare without having to leave the comfort of their home.

Telehealth has a distinctive, growing niche within traditional patient healthcare management. In the U.S. alone, roughly one-third of the 1.25 billion annual non-emergency ambulatory medical care services, or 400+ million visits, could be proficiently treated via telehealth services. Large businesses are also increasing telehealth access to employees and their families, with 90% offering such services in 2017, a jump of 70% from the previous year.

As telehealth continues its worldwide growth and expansion, your Capital Women’s team wants to share with you its options and advantages, as well as explain how telehealth components work together with traditional healthcare services to create a comprehensive, organized health management plan for both you and your family.

Components of Telehealth

Many technologies work in sync to improve communication, create cohesive healthcare diagnosis and treatment coordination and provide patient support of self-managed healthcare:

Patient portal – is a reliable alternative communication platform to email offering you and your doctor a secure method for discerning information.

You can use this technology to request prescription refills, schedule and manage appointments and reminders, review test results and look over summaries of your previous visits.

Larger healthcare systems use patient portal technology to provide one-stop communication for specialists.

Virtual appointment – is a videoconference between you and either your doctor or nurse practitioner to receive ongoing care when an in-person visit isn’t possible or required.

Web-based visit – is a convenient, virtual visit with a drop-in healthcare facility ideally suited to minor ailments.

After a patient answers several questions, the web-based healthcare facility doctor can prescribe medications, relay home care strategies and recommend additional care or treatment if applicable.

Nursing call centers are another web-based visit option where nurses provide at-home care advice; however, they do not diagnose or prescribe medications.

While web-based visits are convenient, they do pose some drawbacks:

  • Treatment isn’t coordinated with your physician.
  • Essential information from your medical history (current medications, allergies or other health issues) is not considered.
  • The computer-aided decision-making model is not optimal for complex medical histories.
  • Lack of doctor/patient interaction may impede accurate diagnosis and shared decision-making processes between you and your doctor.

Remote patient monitoring – uses web-based or mobile apps to upload medical data from wireless devices to your doctor and/or health team.

These devices may measure and transmit blood pressure, blood glucose, lung functionality, heart rate, gait and/or posture control, tremors, physical activity or sleep patterns, including falls, to your doctor.

Virtual consultation – occurs between doctors if a specialist is necessary for diagnosis and/or treatment or between you, your primary-care doctor and a specialist. This eliminates unnecessary travel, reduces wait times and streamlines treatment and diagnosis processes.

Personal health records (PHRs) – are accessible 24/7 via web-enabled devices to patients. PHRs are a great tool in event of a medical emergency, as they offer emergency personnel fast access to your pertinent health data and physician contact information.

Personal health apps – are digital tools you can use to store your personal health information, record vital signs, calculate and track your calorie intake, set up reminders for taking medicines or record your physical activity, to name a few.

Studies indicate both phone-based support and telemonitoring vitals of those diagnosed with heart failure had reduced risk of death and hospitalization for the condition while improving their quality of life.

Physician visit apps – are used primarily in large metropolitan cities and incorporate doctor staff that are on-call via mobile apps offered at a subscription fee with additional tiered service costs.

Telehealth Benefits

There are many advantages of incorporating telehealth options into your health management plan:

  • Eliminates travel for patients with mobility issues, caregivers, doctors and specialists.
  • Early treatment allows for early diagnosis while saving patients unnecessary health costs.
  • Patients take an active role in their health, which can reduce number of medications and unnecessary emergency room trips while lessening depressive symptoms.
  • Offers preventative care for remediating acute medical conditions.
  • Opens doors to new treatment options like “nighthawking,” where U.S. physicians living abroad provide specialized services like radiology or screening assessments during overnight hours.
  • Adds breadth of expertise accessibility by using remote specialists or tele-pharmacists to rural smaller-based hospitals, allowing patients to remain throughout treatment processes.
  • Provides doctors further understanding and knowledge of patients’ lives and living environments during video consults.
  • Boosts productivity and efficiency, as doctors can achieve a more fluid patient schedule that enables them to consult more patients. Patients save travel time and costs.

Challenges of Telehealth

While telehealth has distinctive advantages, there are some challenges this growing healthcare realm faces, including:

  • risk of fragmented healthcare, including gaps in care, overuse of medical care for any minor ailment, inappropriate use of medicines and unnecessary or overlapping health care and treatment
  • the requirement of reliable, fast broadband connections between homes and hospitals, particularly in rural, low-population areas
  • physician licensing complexities
  • challenges regarding privacy and disclosures, especially with HIPAA acknowledgment
  • cloudy issues surrounding telehealth apps as medical devices under FDA regulations
  • necessary improvements on handling “informed consent” and making patients aware of both advantages and concerns of medical treatments
  • outlying telehealth costs to patients due to varying insurance coverage or state laws
  • and, perhaps most importantly, thorough patient understanding of correct use and knowledge of medical devices and digital technologies.

As digital technologies increase, telehealth services will continue to rise. Your Capital Women’s Care team is here for you and your family should you have questions about successfully integrating appropriate telehealth options within your healthcare management plans.

Our Mission

The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.


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