What Is Telehealth, Anyway?

It’s not just video conferencing—there are many types of telehealth.

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The COVID-19 pandemic helped prove just how useful and beneficial telehealth can be. Indeed, many people are hoping it sticks around long after the pandemic passes. You might immediately associate telehealth with video chats with a doctor, but the truth is, there are many types of telehealth that can help you manage your health.

Defining Telehealth

At its essence, telehealth simply refers to the use of technology to assist with health care. It might mean virtual visits with your doctor (known as telemedicine), but it might also refer to technological devices that help you monitor your health at home (remote patient monitoring).

Types of Telehealth

One of the most notable types of telehealth that people are excited about are virtual visits. The use of live video conferencing hold doctor visits is known as telemedicine. Not every doctor visit can happen virtually, but many can—and it can save you a trip to the doctor’s office. Telemedicine may be really helpful for people in remote locations, without reliable transportation, or with challenging schedules.

Many telemedicine appointments occur on platforms that are secure and user-friendly. However, telemedicine communication can also include online messaging, chats, and phone calls. These methods also allow doctors to share radiographic images and scans electronically.

One of the lesser known aspects of telehealth is the use of technological devices. This can be pretty much any tech that tracks pieces of your health. For example, this may include pedometers, a fitness tracker you wear on your wrist, or special apps on your phone.

One subcategory of telehealth that utilizes technological devices is remote patient monitoring. With this strategy, your doctor provides a device that monitors specific health measurements, such as your pulse or blood sugar. Often, the device collects and displays the data to your doctor. As a result, they can track progress and catch concerning trends early.

Accessing Telehealth

In theory, telehealth can help more people access high-quality health care. The overall goal is to reduce some of the barriers to health care that lead to health disparities. For telemedicine in particular, all you need is a phone or high-speed internet. Simple, right?

Of course, there are still some obstacles to making telemedicine work for all. Luckily, access to telehealth is improving more every day, including better insurance coverage of telemedicine services. To see if any components of telehealth would work for you, consult your doctor and check with your insurance.