By Stacey Brake, BSN, 9Health Director of Health and Wellness
What is telehealth?
You may have heard this term before, and you may be hearing it more now with the pandemic. Telehealth is the process of having a visit with your healthcare provider over the phone, through text messaging, or through a video meeting instead of in person at the office. (It can also be referred to as telemedicine or virtual care, but telehealth is most common.) It’s a way to provide health care from a distance, such as in rural areas when a health care provider and the patient weren’t in the same area. Many healthcare providers are now using smartphones and video cameras to meet with their patients, providing care and support and “checking in” while avoiding potential exposure to the coronavirus.
Telehealth is not new, according to the Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC). The use of telehealth services was on the rise in Colorado prior to the COVID pandemic, with more than 390,000 telehealth visits provided to Coloradans between January 2018 and February 2020. However, numbers have surged during the pandemic, with 30,000 telehealth visits per week on average in the Front Range alone, according to the Colorado Health Institute (CHI).
Why Is It Important?
Telehealth allows for care at home, especially for those who are unable to get to a doctor’s office. Some telehealth services provide support outside of routine office hours and may allow for extended communication through texting or chat features.
Many types of care can be provided through telehealth, both general health care such as wellness visits, and chronic disease management. General health questions can be answered, and a variety of non-emergency conditions can be addressed through telehealth. Some of the most popular conditions treated by telehealth include:
- minor injuries
- depression or anxiety
- sinus infection
- colds and flu
- urinary tract infections
- constipation and indigestion
- back pain
Your provider can also review your medications, talk with you about how you are managing health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes, and prescribe or refill most medications.
Telehealth is especially important during a pandemic because it gives health care professionals a way to provide preventive health care. In fact, there are a variety of screenings that can be done through telehealth including stress and mental health, skin checks, and nutrition. Screenings will vary by doctor’s office so be sure to ask. Be sure to get the care you need even while social distancing!
How Do I Use It?
If you have a cell phone, or device with the internet you probably have everything you need. Research suggests that telehealth via text or phone call is just as effective as telehealth by video, so if you don’t have internet service (or your internet connection is poor) don’t be put off! Telehealth can still be a good option for you. Your health care provider’s office will send you information about what to do and how to access their telehealth services.
Call your provider today to see if they offer telehealth and schedule yourself a check-in! Many practices are pro-actively suggesting telehealth. If yours doesn’t, ask; and don’t be shy about requesting a telehealth appointment if that makes you feel more comfortable.
Want to know more about telehealth? Visit these sites for more information: