Telehealth is the use of digital technology to provide health care. It can include medical, dental, and psychiatric services. Telehealth has recently been used more frequently for medical and mental health visits. It has become especially important during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Telehealth care provides patients with continuity of care through regular remote visits between primary care and specialist physicians. This improves patient outcomes, saves healthcare providers time and money, and reduces the potential for hospitalization. In addition, it allows for the timely follow up of a patient’s care, allowing for the physician to identify and respond to any new symptoms or complications. It also helps ensure that the patient is not being overtreated or rushed into emergency room treatment.
Continuity of Care is especially important for older people and those with chronic diseases. Without it, people may not understand their health conditions, may not know who to contact when they have questions or need help, and could even be at risk for hospitalization and other complications if their care is interrupted. The AMA supports the development of telehealth and provides a variety of resources for telemedicine implementation, including the AMA Telehealth Implementation Playbook. Check out the telehealth policy briefs and browsable state law and reimbursement guides, as well as other best practice tools.
Telehealth services can improve access to care for people who have trouble leaving their homes. These include those who need specialized care and live in rural areas that are far from the specialists they need to see regularly. For those who have transportation issues, have caring responsibilities or cannot take time off from work, telehealth visits can give them access to care without the costs and hassles of traveling. It also saves time for providers who have to travel for long distances or spend their day on the road.
Patients are increasingly able to monitor their health and manage their care through technology, such as wearable devices that send data and mobile apps for uploading data. These tools allow patients to keep track of their conditions, provide feedback and communicate with their doctors, nurses and other health care team members.
Medicare, private payers and many state Medicaid programs have policies that cover telehealth services, but the coverage for these services varies widely. CCHP publishes biannual reports that summarize telehealth-related laws and reimbursement policies across the country. It also maintains telehealth best practice guides that are browsable by state.
Telehealth care is a cost-effective and convenient way to receive medical care. It is especially valuable to people who can’t afford to drive to their doctor or have no health insurance. There are a number of factors that determine how much a telehealth visit costs. These include the length of your appointment, whether or not you have health insurance, and the services you require.
According to a 2017 study, telehealth visits cost about $79 compared to $146 for an in-person visit. This makes them more affordable for patients and healthcare providers alike. In addition to lower costs, telehealth care may also provide a greater return on investment than other types of visits. That could be because it can replace visits that are not worth the money, like emergency room appointments.
Using advanced technology to deliver health care is a huge benefit for patients, but the field also requires a high level of safety. There are a number of ways in which providers can ensure telehealth visits are safe and efficient, including educating patients on the risks involved in remote examinations.
For example, patients need to know the limitations of a telehealth visit and understand that they can stop treatment at any time. They must also sign an informed consent agreement that includes a detailed explanation of how to use a telehealth system.
Likewise, healthcare organizations must be careful to verify insurers’ coverage determinations when scheduling telehealth visits and be sure to meet billing code requirements. Using telehealth documentation templates or checklists and automatic time-tracking within the EHR are two helpful options for ensuring telehealth visits are documented correctly and meet payor guidelines. Additionally, telehealth programs need to be reviewed frequently to assess their safety, quality of care, and health outcomes.