What is telehealth? If you haven’t heard of this healthcare service, this read will be beneficial to you.
In this article:
- Telehealth Definition
- Differentiating Telehealth from Telemedicine
- What Are the Benefits of Telehealth Services?
- What Are the Different Telehealth Technologies?
- Reimbursement Limits of Healthcare Providers on Telehealth Services
- The Future of Telehealth in the Healthcare Industry
What Is Telehealth? Defining a New Healthcare Service
Telehealth is a broad healthcare service that deals with the delivery and facilitation of services such as the following:
- Self-care through digital communication devices and telecommunications
- Health information
- Patient and provider education
- Medical care
Patients can use video conferencing and health apps to utilize telehealth services.
Differentiating Telehealth from Telemedicine
As defined in the dictionary, telemedicine is the practice of remote diagnosis and treatment on patients through telecommunications technology. For example, a doctor can conduct a video call with the patient for a consultation.
On the other hand, telehealth covers a bigger scope of application and service to patients than telemedicine, meaning it deals with all the components of the healthcare system done using telecommunications technology.
What Are the Benefits of Telehealth Services?
The telehealthcare industry extends its services and applications using mobile applications and the internet mainly to do the following:
- Enhance healthcare support
- Promote healthcare access
- Offer convenience
- Improve care
It also plays a role in making specific processes run smooth:
1. Healthcare Provider Communication
Telehealth allows healthcare providers to use digital platforms for communication. It makes it easier for them to collaborate with other medical professionals in the treatment of patients.
2. Patient Engagement
The use of telehealth technologies helps patients take control of their health and wellness. Health management mobile apps, online learning, and educational videos help patients get emotional support, increase physical activity, stop weight gain, and manage chronic health issues.
Patients can schedule appointments with their doctors or interact with their providers online, too.
3. Medical Students Training and Education
Online courses and training through telehealth provide medical students easy access to new and updated knowledge in their respective fields.
4. Physician or Medical Specialist Aide
For patients who only have access to small or less-resourced hospitals, they can use telehealth services to reach physicians or specialists at larger regional healthcare facilities. This service is especially helpful to prison populations and people in underserved urban areas and rural communities.
What Are the Different Telehealth Technologies?
These technologies allow various patients, medical professionals, and healthcare providers to maximize the services of telehealth.
1. Computers, Mobile Apps, and Electronic Wearables for Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) Definition: The evaluation, transmission, collection, and reporting of patients’ health data with the use of computers, mobile devices and apps, and electronic wearables
RPM allows patients to evaluate themselves and send the data to their physicians through electronic devices that collect and transfer data, such as cardiac stats and blood pressure reading.
2. High-Resolution Cameras for Video Conferencing Between Patients and Medical Experts
Video conferencing with high-resolution cameras allows patients and doctors to conquer distance and to do real-time video communication. Patients in rural areas, military personnel, and inmates can especially benefit from this type of telehealth service.
3. Data Reservoir and Transmission Technology for Storage and Forwarding
Store and forward telehealth is the transmission, storage, and capture of patients’ health information using routers and secure servers. Photos and videos of the patients’ health information are some of the data gathered and sent to the medical team in charge.
Reimbursement Limits of Healthcare Providers on Telehealth Services
Although telehealth promises a better service in healthcare, its reimbursement limits are a major concern. Both public and private healthcare insurance companies can only be flexible with their funding to a certain degree.
1. Private Payers
Private payers do not have to reimburse for telehealth services because there is no federal law requiring them to do so. But, some states follow telehealth parity laws.
These are laws requiring payers to cover services under telehealth as those that are given face-to-face and to reimburse services under telehealth the same rate as those in in-clinic services.
Medicaid has its own set of telehealth reimbursement policies based on the states:
- 15 states will provide for store and forward, but Medicaid will not include states that only refund teleradiology.
- 32 states will give reimbursement for the facility fees, transmission, or both.
- 9 states will provide for telehealth services that use all three technologies.
- 20 states will give refunds for RPM.
- 49 states and Washington DC will provide for video conferencing.
Medicare only reimburses if the patient’s service location is in a health professional shortage area or non-metropolitan statistical area. This health insurance also has limits for facilities and providers that offer telehealth services.
The Future of Telehealth in the Healthcare Industry
There might be challenges with the reimbursement of telehealth services, but its benefits to people are increasing, such as decreased costs, the convenience of care, and improved healthcare service. These benefits alone make employers, payers, and providers think of more telehealth solutions to improve the overall healthcare system.
Patients may also increase their motivation to try telehealth for urgent care and convenience because of these potentials.
Knowing what telehealth is allows people to better understand its significance in the improvement of their healthcare. The convenience and cost-effectiveness of telehealth can benefit patients and medical experts.
Its potential to make our lives easier is so far bigger.
LIV Health is an integrated telehealth service that can connect you with specialists who can help provide you with treatment or preventive options.
What are your thoughts on telehealth? Share them with us in the comments section below!