Video technology is making health care more convenient.
In today’s connected world, we attend business meetings, connect with long-distance friends, and chat with the grandkids using video technology. Why not use the same tools for a routine doctor visit?
Once limited to people in rural areas, telehealth has become more readily available to everyone. Using video conferencing technology, you can access health care providers more conveniently than with in-person visits. It also gives people with chronic health conditions and/or mobility issues an easy way to meet regularly with medical professionals. And it can limit exposure to people with contagions.
What is telehealth?
The term “telehealth” encompasses a wide variety of services. Telehealth includes remote monitoring of vital signs, online education, and telemedicine. Think of telehealth as the umbrella term for remote health services.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine is a form of telehealth that involves providing health care services via telecommunications technology. Your health insurer may offer some type of primary or urgent care telemedicine. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield Wellpoint-affiliated health plans offer LiveHealth Online: its doctors are available 24/7 via two-way video to handle colds, flu, sore throats, and other general conditions.
Can I use telemedicine to see a specialist?
In some cases, yes. Some medical specialties suit telemedicine better than others.
Telepsychiatry is a growing and valuable field for improving access to mental health care. Some private practices provide phone or video consults. It also helps improve access to mental health care in emergency rooms and nursing homes. Other emerging uses for telemedicine include opthamology, dermatology, oncology, and physical therapy, among others.
Does my insurance cover telemedicine?
Private insurers each reimburse differently depending on the policy and on state laws. Call your insurance company or review your policy to find out what it will and won’t cover.
As more health care providers and insurers embrace telehealth, expect to see remote services expand. In time, sitting in the waiting room may become a thing of the past.