How many times have you heard it said that the
internet has changed modern life? Indeed, it's likely changed how you stay in
touch with family and friends and buy goods and services. And it's probably
even changed how you search for information about health problems.
Several telehealth tools are offered to help
you manage your health care and receive the services you need. During the
coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many people used telehealth.
People often still use it. Find out more about telehealth.
What is telehealth?
Telehealth is the use of digital information
and communication technologies to access health care services remotely and
manage your health care. Technologies can include computers and mobile devices,
such as tablets and smartphones. This may be technology you use from home. Or a
nurse or other health care professional may provide telehealth from a medical
office or mobile van, such as in rural areas. Telehealth can also be technology
that your health care provider uses to improve or support health care services.
The goals of telehealth, sometimes called
e-health or m-health (mobile health), include the following:
·Make health care easier to get for people who live in
communities that are remote or in the country.
·Keep you and others safe if you have an infectious disease such
·Offer primary care for many conditions.
·Make services more easily offered or handy for people who have
limited ability to move, time or transportation.
·Offer access to medical specialists.
·Improve communication and coordination of care among health care
team members and a person getting care.
·Offer advice for self-management of health care.
Many people found telehealth helpful during
the COVID-19 pandemic and still use it. Telehealth is being used more often.
Here are many examples of telehealth services
that may be helpful for your health care.
Some clinics may use telemedicine to offer
remote care. For example, clinics may offer virtual visits. These can allow you
to see a health care provider, mental health counselor or a nurse via online
video or phone chats.
Virtual visits can offer care in many
conditions such as migraines, skin conditions, diabetes, depression, anxiety,
colds, coughs and COVID-19. These visits allow you to get care from a provider
when you don't need or can't get an in-person visit.
Before your visit, your health care team may
send you information or forms to fill out online and return to them. They may
also make sure you have the technology you need. They'll check to see if you
need to update or install any software or apps too. And they can tell you how
to sign on and join the video chat for your visit. Also, the health care team
can explain how to use the microphone, camera and text chat. If needed, ask a
family member to help you set up the technology you need.
You only need a smartphone, tablet or computer
with internet access to join the virtual visit. You can find a comfortable,
quiet, private spot to sit during your visit. Your provider also meets from a
Some people may use web or phone-based
services for medical care or advice. When you log into a web-based service or
call a service that offers primary or urgent care, you're guided through many
questions. The provider or nurse practitioner can prescribe drugs. Or they may
suggest home care tips or more medical care.
While these services are handy, they have
·Treatment may not be coordinated with your regular provider.
·Important details from your medical history may not be
·The computer-driven model used to make decisions may not be
right for you if you have a complex medical history.
·The service doesn't easily allow for you to make decisions with
your provider about treatments.
Many technologies allow your provider or
health care team to check your health remotely. These technologies include:
·Web-based or mobile apps for uploading data to your provider or
health care team. For example, if you have diabetes, you may upload food logs,
blood sugar levels and drugs that a nurse checks.
·Devices that measure and wirelessly send data, such as blood
pressure, blood sugar and oxygen levels.
·Wearable devices that automatically record and send data. For
example, the devices may record data such as heart rate, blood sugar, how you
walk, your posture, tremors, physical activity or your sleep.
·Home monitoring devices for older people or people with dementia
that can find changes in daily activities such as falls.
·Devices that send notifications to remind you to do exercises or
Providers talking to
Providers can also use technology to give
people better care. For example, in a virtual consultation, primary care
providers can get input from specialists in other locations when they have
questions about your diagnosis or treatment.
The primary care provider sends exam notes,
history, test results, X-rays or other images to the specialist to review. The
specialist may answer by email. Or they may do a virtual visit with you at your
provider's office. They may also ask for a face-to-face meeting.
In some cases, a nurse or other health care
professional may use technology to provide care from a medical office, clinic
or mobile van in a rural area. They may call a specialist or provider at a
medical clinic to do a remote consult.
These virtual consultations may prevent
unnecessary in-person referrals to a specialist. They may also cut wait times
for you to see a specialist. And they may remove the need for you to travel to
Your primary care clinic may have an online
patient portal. These portals offer a safer way of contacting your provider
instead of email. A portal provides a safe online tool to do the following:
·Message your provider or a nurse.
·Ask for prescription refills.
·Review test results and summaries of earlier visits.
·Schedule visits or ask for appointment reminders for preventive
If your provider is in a large health care
system, the portal may also provide one point of contact for any specialists
you may see.
Personal health apps
Many apps have been made to help people better
organize their medical information in one secure place. These digital tools may
·Store personal health information.
·Record vital signs.
·Calculate and track your calories.
·Schedule reminders for taking drugs.
·Record physical activity such as your daily step count.
An electronic personal health record system
(PHR system) is a collection of information about your health that you control
and maintain. A PHR app is easy for you to see anytime via a web-enabled
device, such as your computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. A PHR also allows
you to review your lab results, X-rays and notes from your provider. Your
provider may give this to other providers with permission.
In an emergency, a personal health record can
quickly give emergency staff vital information. For example, it can show your
current conditions, drugs, drug allergies and your provider's contact details.
The potential of
Technology has the potential to improve the
quality of health care. And technology can make it easier for more people to
get health care.
Telehealth may offer ways to make health care
more efficient, better coordinated and closer to home. You can go to a virtual
visit anywhere — such as at home or in your car. And you don't need to travel
to go to a virtual visit.
Telehealth can be useful so you can stay home
if you're sick or if it's hard for you to travel. And you can use telehealth if
you live far from a medical center. And many people have been able to keep
distance from others at home and still receive care during the COVID-19
pandemic. And providers can diagnose and treat COVID-19 remotely.