Five Ways Telehealth Supports Patient Wellness
Telehealth is a technology-powered strategy of delivering care and services.
02:07 25 June 2022
Telehealth is one of the biggest revolutions in the healthcare industry. This technology-powered strategy of delivering care and services is growing increasingly popular. In fact, a study by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services noted that almost a quarter of their respondents had used a telehealth service in the last four weeks. Meanwhile, the American Medical Association has found that, as of 2020, 79% of physicians work in a practice that offers telehealth options to patients.
Telehealth is an umbrella term for the use of communication technologies and digital information to manage and access healthcare and services. It embraces diagnosis and treatment, but offers the greatest scope in bringing healthcare closer to patients, with greater ease of access. Here are the major areas where telehealth services are making the medical journey easier for patients
Remote Access to Health Services
One of the most obvious advantages of telehealth is that it makes remote access possible. People can attend virtual doctor visits and access rehabilitative therapies by video call. Many of these care providers offer extended hours for digital appointments, letting patients get support on a more convenient schedule.
However, this technology goes beyond convenience. It can also connect people in need with professionals they couldn’t otherwise work with. Some patients can get a consultation with highly trained specialists who have months-long waiting lists for in-person visits. Others may get access to mental healthcare in rural and underserved areas. In such cases, telehealth might be the only reasonable option for getting needed help.
Medical Data Protected Yet Accessible
The Electronic Health Record (EHR) and online patient portals simplify access to patient data without compromising privacy. They’re also a highly convenient way for people to stay on top of their own medical history. By logging in remotely, patients can review details from their last checkup that may have slipped their mind, clarify medication instructions and receive testing results promptly.
Portals enable easy scheduling for new appointments, provide contact options with individual members of the healthcare team, and let all stakeholders add notes to the health record that can be discussed at the next virtual visit.
With telehealth connected to the HER, patient information is enlarged to include more nuances, as well as keeping all this data encrypted and secured. Digital files backed up for redundancy also eliminates the accidental loss of paper records in a fire or other such situation.
Remote Patient Monitoring
In a hospital, patients are monitored by nurses who check in on them and watch their status through various monitoring devices. Telehealth allows some of those patients to get this necessary support in the home. People with less urgent conditions can rest in their own beds while hospital staff monitor remotely through devices such as blood oxygen sensors.
Trained professionals evaluating this data or responding to an automatic alarm trigger can intervene or call an ambulance if need be, while patients maintain their independence.
This helps both patients and care teams. People can go home earlier after surgery or illness, while still having the safety net of a monitored recovery. Meanwhile, hospitals operating at capacity can free up beds for patients who need more urgent attention.
Friends and family who provide care are under heavy burdens. Many of them aren’t trained in the myriad tasks needed by their elderly or unwell loved ones. Telehealth can support caregivers in a variety of ways including remote coaching on how to operate monitoring devices or do certain tasks like wound care, getting medical questions answered within minutes by a nurse, or simply getting prescription refills without needing to take a trip to the hospital.
Human contact through telehealth can help caregivers to get advice on how to manage a health insurance company’s web of red tape, or to receive therapy and counseling to better manage stress and difficult emotions. Connecting with hospital-sponsored support groups, and trading tips with other caregivers in similar situations, are both aspects of the online connection that provide benefit.
Wellness-related Wearables and Apps
Remote monitoring is just the beginning of the wellness-promoting tech on the market right now. Independent companies and medical service systems alike are exploring how wearables and smartphone applications can create better health outcomes. This tech also empowers users to take a more active role in their overall wellness.
Some of the options currently on the market include fitness-promoting devices and applications such as apps that support quitting smoking, medication reminders and allergy trackers. The life alert systems have been around for a long time now, with GPS location tracking and fall-detection.
As smart watches and phones begin to emulate some of the features of the myriad stand-alone devices, we see apps flourishing for stress management and mindfulness training, heart rate monitoring, step counters for setting and tracking daily mobility goals, and the like. There are now preliminary screeners for everything from ADHD to hearing loss.
A growing body of evidence shows how effective this wellness tech is. Wyoming Medicaid published a pilot study on a healthy-pregnancy app, where patients could connect to medical services, record gestational milestones, and receive advice on best practices for a healthy pregnancy. The study found that app users attended more prenatal checkups and had significantly decreased chances of giving birth to low-weight babies.
In summary, we're seeing that technology that makes healthcare easier gets used more, to greater benefit. Telehealth and autonomous technology enable connections and remove barriers between people and the services they need, bypassing time constraints and the need to travel to a central location like a hospital. It also helps medical professionals to work more effectively and reach a wider net of patients.