Published on April 8, 2020
Some medical offices have a “sick side” and a “well side” for patients and their caregivers. As much as I appreciate this effort, there must be an even better way. Today there is, with telehealth, also called telemedicine. When patients can’t, or prefer not to, go into a doctor’s office, their preferred method is now online, through videoconferencing, remote monitoring, electronic consults and wireless communications.
Use of telehealth in hospitals has grown rapidly during the last decade. From 2010 to 2017, hospitals implementing a computerized health system increased from 35 percent to 76 percent, according to the American Hospital Association (AHA). For patients with cancer in rural areas and across the globe, telemedicine can bridge the gap between wealthy areas and lower income areas. This is especially important during the current quarantine we are experiencing in many places in the world. The risk of infection is too great, and great strides are being made to keep patients safe.
Home-Based Care Goes Mainstream
“The COVID-19 pandemic is going to push home-based care into the mainstream,” said healthcare tech veteran, Steve Tolle, of HLM Venture Partners, which invests in health and telecom companies to move the field of telehealth forward. He also knows about telehealth first-hand, as a diabetic, who is currently quarantined in Chicago.
“The last thing my doctor wants is for me to have an in-person visit,” he said. They’re using Skype and FaceTime to communicate.
Home-based care is also becoming popular for other needs. For example, there is an exploding need for mental health services globally right now, and Steve’s partners have invested in companies that provide on-demand tele-psych for a wide range of issues. Able To: Virtual Behavioral Health Care provides phone-based cognitive behavioral therapy (talk therapy) where patients call in from their preferred location. Additionally, Insight+Regroup provides tele-behavioral therapy where patients go to a physical site (clinic, ER department, hospital, prison) to have a telehealth session.
“We care about investing in companies that can make a difference,” Steve said.
Barriers to Telehealth
One issue that patients will have questions about is coverage. Is your service covered by my insurance or Medicaid? Answers will vary. Currently, 26 states have laws that require private insurers to reimburse healthcare providers for services delivered through telemedicine. Another thing to be aware of is location. If you are in one state and the doctor you would like to speak with is in another, there may be insurance barriers there, too.
Also, access to broadband Internet may pose a challenge for rural communities that are not up to speed with suburbs and cities. The challenge with using FaceTime or Skype in lieu of in-person visits, is that these tools are not encrypted. In these challenging times, disease prevention may rule over privacy when it comes to health and safety. But the good news is that laws are changing; doctors no longer have to be in a room with a patient in order to prescribe a medication.
When setting up your next appointment, ask if you can meet the doctor over FaceTime or Skype. This can cut down the rate of disease transmission, and right now, help to “flatten the curve.”
~Lauren Evoy Davis
Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.
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