On April 2, 2020, we reached an all-time high of 1 million confirmed coronavirus infections worldwide. This development placed intense pressure on health care workers and government officials around the globe to handle the situation with more care. The initial response to the virus has varied from country to country: some have dealt with it more easily, while others have had many setbacks. However, overall, things seem to be improving.
One of the biggest breaks for the U.S. came when President Donald Trump announced the expansion of telehealth benefits for medicare beneficiaries during the outbreak—a decision that will change the face of medicine as we know it.
Top Telehealth Questions
Today, we’re going to talk about the benefits of telehealth and how it can help you during the COVID-19 crisis. But, before we get started, let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions concerning telehealth (otherwise known as “virtual primary care”).
1. How Does It Work?
In situations like this, where staying home is the safest option, having access to medical professionals and services can be the difference that saves lives. With telehealth, patients have this access to medical examinations, tests, and treatments through technology like voice calls, video chats, videoconferencing, and more. Patients can ask their doctor any pressing questions with the help of a simple phone or webcam, lessening further risk to their own health or anyone else’s.
2. How Do I Find a Telehealth Provider?
Thankfully, you can now find a telehealth provider with just a few clicks. Every state in America now has coverage for telehealth services. Moreover, almost 8 out of 10 hospitals in the country offer telemedicine services in some capacity. All you need to do is check the website of your health insurance provider and learn how to access telehealth within your network. You can also access it directly through sites like ARcare.
3. How Safe Is Telehealth?
Telehealth is now more secure than ever. The current administration has enforced several laws protecting patient privacy. While there are still some security risks to using applications like Skype to communicate with your doctor, most services provide a sufficient layer of security. All up-to-date telehealth providers have privacy-protection features (such as data encryption) in place to protect their patients’ private information.
4. Can Telehealth Help Me With the Coronavirus?
While a doctor can’t perform a coronavirus test remotely, they can help you in many other ways. For instance, they can assess your symptoms to help you rule out other illnesses, or instruct you or someone in your household on how to correctly take a tissue sample and send it out for testing. Additionally, during a remote visit, a doctor can educate you about the possible risks of the coronavirus, tell you how to improve your daily routine, and advise you if/when you need to visit the hospital.
How Telehealth Can Benefit You
In order to enjoy all of the benefits of telemedicine, all you need is an internet connection and an internet-capable device, such as a phone, tablet, or personal computer. Now that 96% of Americans own a smartphone, we are in a world of opportunity to truly combat COVID-19.
Most telehealth applications function as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which means you can install them on multiple devices. The introduction of the SaaS service model has been a game-changer for telehealth because it allows patients to have access to medical professionals, no matter where they are. However, ease of access is not the only significant benefit to telehealth. Let’s take a look at a few more.
1. Reduced Treatment Costs
As any telemedicine doctor will tell you, virtual services not only allow medical professionals to do their job more easily and efficiently, but they also make things much more affordable for everyone involved. SaaS apps are largely cost-effective compared to standard hospital systems. On average, a visit to the emergency room will cost more than $1,700, and even a simple on-site visit can cost almost $150, whereas online visits will typically cost less than $80. A recent UPMC study revealed that every online visit saves hospitals more than $86, which can also ease the financial burden for patients quite a bit.
2. Improved Healthcare Quality
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, telemedicine improves the medical experience for patients significantly. For instance, high-risk patients wondering, “What are the symptoms of the coronavirus?” can now find reliable answers without exposure to potentially contaminated environments or long hours of online research. Additionally, people who live in rural areas with limited access to medical personnel can have those accessibility problems solved by telemedicine. And, it also helps people with impaired mobility receive treatments more easily by allowing them access to the care they need without the need for travel.
3. Decreased Patient Dropouts
Fear is often present with health concerns, as is inconvenience. As a result, many people simply avoid going to the doctor’s office. And, today, the situation has gotten worse; patients miss their appointments much more frequently, now, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
This especially happens to people who are too young to be considered high-risk patients but too old to be concerned about their health. Even before the outbreak of the coronavirus, without telehealth, approximately 40% of patients would still skip their visits because of excessive travel alone. Fortunately, as telehealth offers medical care from the comfort of the home, much of the fear and inconvenience can be eliminated, thus limiting the number of skipped appointments.
4. Increased Overall Satisfaction
When it’s all said and done, doctors primarily want their patients to be safe, healthy, and satisfied. This leads to yet another benefit of virtual primary care: patient satisfaction rates are reportedly higher when using most telehealth services.
A recent survey of telehealth users revealed that 99% of patients are satisfied with their experiences. And, surprisingly, the satisfaction rates don’t decrease with follow-up visits. Even after a few months of use, most people are still completely pleased with their telehealth services (which can’t always be said of in-person visits).
COVID-19 is affecting us all, and it’s more important than ever to identify ways to help each other stay safe and healthy. Telehealth is one of the best ways for us to do this. But, it also has other benefits that can continue to improve our medical care system for years to come.
If you’ve been looking for virtual care opportunities, look no further. At ARcare, we seek to offer better health and individualized care to all of our patients—whether they visit us online or in person. To schedule an appointment or find out more about the telehealth services we have to offer, contact us today. At ARcare, we make it our mission to provide “Health for All.”