With the coronavirus exorbitantly limiting in-person contact and physical appointments, healthcare providers have turned to a new tool that may change the healthcare industry in the long-term: Telehealth. Physicians can use an internet connection and smartphones, computers, or tablets to conduct virtual visits with their patients.

There are three major self-explanatory Telehealth encounters being offered currently: 1. Outpatient care during “Stay-at-Home” orders. 2. Inpatient COVID-19 related surge during various phases of the pandemic 3. Post pandemic recovery.

Telehealth programs overcome physical barriers to provide patients and caregivers access to convenient medical care. One more characteristic of telehealth that appeals to many is its ability to generate cost savings, as costs related to traveling to an in-person medical visit would not be incurred. An additional advantage of the telehealth visit is that it allows doctors to assess the patient’s home environment and whether it may be contributing to the patient’s health issue.

With these advantages of telehealth, there are also some negative sides of the concept such as cost of implementation in rural areas, cost structure, lack of internet infrastructure and so on.

In an overall sense, telehealth can be a major supplement to traditional health care by filling in gaps and making the whole process more efficient. Many health conditions are minor and do not actually require an in-person visit to diagnose and treat. For example, a person with the common cold or Flu may be inclined to visit their primary care physician when they get the sniffles, but a remote visit would take less of the doctor’s (and the patient’s) time that could be directed toward other patients. In a sense, telehealth holds the promise of triaging patients and prioritizing the immediacy of care needed.

Reference: An Article from Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy – written by Scott Boisvert, JD, Sravya Durbha, MBA and Elaine Nguyen

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