Medical practitioners and health care professionals play an integral role in our lives. At various points in time, we have taken their role for granted. However, if truth be told, we can’t fathom life without their presence. They have a profound impact on the quality of our lives and we don’t even realize the real magnitude of it. The past year has certainly put things into perspective. Health care workers have tried their level best to provide quality telehealth services in times of distress. The usage of telehealth services has allowed them to stay connected with their patients in crucial times.
What is Telehealth?
In essence, telehealth refers to the usage of digital and communication mediums to provide healthcare services remotely. In recent times, the concept of telehealth has gained immense importance. The influx of Covid-19 has wholly changed the landscape of the entire world. As a result, the dynamics of healthcare services have changed remarkably.
What was once a far-fetched dream is now a reality. Doctors and other medical practitioners can now help their patients from the comfort of their house. The prevalence of telehealth allows them to connect directly with patients in a manner that is convenient and hassle free. Catching a cold and not having to visit the doctor? What more could you possibly want?
Telehealth with respect to Covid-19
Telehealth has been in the market for a long time. However, it wasn’t given much importance up until last year. The advent of Covid-19 highlighted the core need for online health services. With the spread of the virus, it was becoming increasingly difficult for people to visit the hospital. Even if one was severely ill, the option of visiting the hospital looked unflattering. Perhaps this is because the plausible idea of catching the virus sounded more dangerous than the illness itself.
Given these circumstances, the use of telehealth services was the need for the hour. Although people are still fully adapting to the entire process, many healthcare professionals have adopted this method of connecting with patients in crucial times. In a time where COVID-19 has affected the lives of many, these telehealth services allow health workers to deliver quality care through online communication mediums. They can not only connect with their existing patients, but can also provide medical checkups and consultancy for new patients. As a result, they can connect and help their patients without having to be physically present.
Modes of Telehealth
Telehealth services do not have one standard mode. A medical professional can provide telehealth services in different ways. The most frequently used method of telehealth is known as a “synchronous mode.” This includes live interaction with the patient using a mobile phone, computer or laptop. The interaction can be in the form of a video or an audio call, depending on the preference of the patient/doctor. In some cases, this synchronous mode includes the use of certain medical equipment by a healthcare worker (nurse, doctor’s assistant) who is physically present with the patient. The healthcare worker is given instructions by the medical practitioner who is operating remotely.
Another mode of telehealth service is one that is “asynchronous.” This mode lies on the opposite end of the spectrum. It does not include any live interaction with the patient. In this method of telehealth, the patient is required to send his queries or concerns in the form of messages, pictures or data that are responded to at a later date. Thus, this mode of telehealth is one that does not elicit an instant response. It is most commonly used by general physicians who give appropriate advice on the basis of the illness described through text or pictures.
The third form of telehealth is a purely remote mode where a patient’s clinical measurements are given to their respective medical practitioner. This mode can be live or otherwise, depending on the medical practitioner’s practices.
Benefits of Telehealth
Apart from staying connected with patients in crucial times, telehealth also promotes what we need the most at present: social distancing. Not only does it reduce the exposure of patients, but also reduces the pressure on hospitals by cutting down the demand for onsite facilities and the use of extravagant PPE kits by doctors. Moreover, the use of online mediums can help healthcare workers to identify symptoms of Covid-19 in patients and provide appropriate guidance.
Even if we consider telehealth from a non-COVID-19 perspective, it has countless benefits. For starters, it encourages the practice of follow ups. Many times, patients visit doctors to be treated for an illness. After that visit, the patient may or may not visit again. In a situation like this, it is important for healthcare professionals to monitor their progress and keep a check to ascertain if their health is improving or worsening. If it is the latter, then immediate action should be taken. Doctors should check up with their respective patients and provide treatment accordingly. They should remain in touch with the patients in crucial times.
Another added advantage of Telehealth is the provision of online support for patients undergoing weight loss programs. These online mediums can help patients in times of need and provide them the extra help that they may need in such circumstances. In addition, telehealth also gives therapy a new meaning altogether. Many patients who require therapy don’t feel comfortable enough to visit the therapist and vent their concerns. This is perhaps because they feel like they are being judged or simply because venting in front of a third party seems foreign to them. The root of the problem is yet to be identified; however, the use of telehealth services allows these patients to voice out their concerns and problems on an online medium. Since they don’t have to directly meet the therapist, the likelihood of them expressing their true feelings is higher.
In a nutshell, telehealth services are still a new innovation in the market. The influx of Covid-19 has given a fierce push to these services and now more and more health care workers are treading on the same path. These services are now starting to take shape, and are allowing doctors to stay connected with their patients in uncertain times like these.