Telehealth is using electronic communications to provide or get health care services. You can get health care using phones, computers, or mobile devices. You can find health information or talk with your health care provider using streaming media, video chats, email, or text messages. Your provider can use telehealth to remotely monitor your health with devices that can remotely record vital signs (for example, blood pressure, weight, and heart rate), medicine intake, and other health information. Your provider can also communicate with other providers using telehealth.
Telehealth is also called telemedicine.
Telehealth can make it quicker and easier to get or provide health services.
HOW TO USE TELEHEALTH
Here are just a few ways telehealth is used.
Email. You can use email to ask your provider questions or order prescription refills. If you get a test done, the results can be sent to your providers by email. Or, one provider can share and discuss results with another provider or a specialist. These may include:
- Patient data
- Video-exam clips
You can also share your personal health records by email with another provider. That means you do not have to wait for paper questionnaires to be mailed to you before your appointment.
Live telephone conferencing. You can make an appointment to talk to your provider on the phone or join phone-based online support groups. During a telephone visit, you and your provider can use the phone to talk with a specialist about your care without everyone being in the same place.
Live video conferencing. You can make an appointment and use video chat to talk to your provider or join online support groups. During a video visit, you and your provider can use video chat to talk with a specialist about your care without everyone being in the same place.
Mhealth (mobile health). You can use a mobile device to talk with or text your provider. You can use health apps to track things like your blood sugar levels or diet and exercise results and share it with your providers. You can receive text or email reminders for appointments.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM). This allows your provider to monitor your health from afar. You keep devices to measure your heart rate, blood pressure, or blood glucose in your home. These devices collect data and send it to your provider to monitor your health. Using RPM can lower your chances of getting sick or needing to go to the hospital.
RPM can be used for long-term illnesses such as:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disorders
Online health information. You can watch videos to learn specific skills to help you manage health conditions like diabetes or asthma. You can also read health information online to help you make informed decisions about your care with your provider.
With telehealth, your health information remains private. Providers must use computer software that keeps your health records safe.
BENEFITS OF TELEHEALTH
Telehealth has many benefits. It can help:
- You get care without traveling long distances if you live far from your doctor or medical center
- You get care from a specialist in a different state or city
- You save time and money spent on travelling
- Older or disabled adults who have a hard time getting to appointments
- You get regular monitoring of health problems without having to go in as often for appointments
- Reduce hospitalizations and allow people with chronic disorders have more independence
TELEHEALTH AND INSURANCE
Not all health insurance companies pay for all telehealth services. And services may be limited for people on Medicare or Medicaid. Also, states have different standards for what they will cover. It is a good idea to check with your insurance company to be sure telehealth services will be covered.
Telehealth; Telemedicine; Mobile health (mHealth); Remote patient monitoring; E-health
American Telemedicine Association website. Telehealth basics. www.americantelemed.org/resource/why-telemedicine. Accessed July 15, 2020.
Hass VM, Kayingo G. Chronic care perspectives. In: Ballweg R, Brown D, Vetrosky DT, Ritsema TS, eds. Physician Assistant: A Guide to Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 16.
Health Resources and Services Administration. Rural Health Resource Guide. www.hrsa.gov/rural-health/resources/index.html. Updated August 2019. Accessed July 15, 2020.
Rheuban KS, Krupinski EA. Understanding Telehealth. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education; 2018.
Review Date 5/30/2020
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.