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Introduction to Telehealth

Introduction to Telehealth

Author: Capella Healthcare

Introduction to Telehealth

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what's covered
In this lesson, you will be introduced to the role of telehealth in the healthcare field. Specifically, this lesson will cover these topics:
  1. Introduction
  2. Example

1. Introduction

All healthcare professionals should be aware of the important role that telehealth can play in providing healthcare services. Telehealth is a tool that can meet patient needs across the United States (US) by improving the following:

  • access to care
  • cost of care
  • quality of care
We have a shortage of primary care physicians, specialists, and healthcare professionals in the United States. In fact, the shortage of primary care physicians is approximately 20,000, in addition to the shortage of other healthcare professionals, including nutritionists, health coaches, nurses, physical therapists, counselors, and psychologists. Conditions that contribute to this shortage include distance, transportation, time availability, and access to care. These issues are often more pronounced in rural and underserved areas.

Besides improving access to care, telehealth increases quality, promotes a better patient experience, and decreases cost. Telehealth provides access to care from patients' homes, thereby avoiding the need to travel to a clinic, wait in waiting rooms with sick patients, and take time off from work.

Telehealth is not limited to meeting acute or episodic healthcare needs; it can also address chronic care needs. Complex patient care needs can be addressed through telehealth services, and mobile technologies and Wi-Fi-enabled devices can help monitor patient health remotely and enable professional follow-up care.

Telehealth connects patients to health care with tools such as videoconferencing, electronic consults, and wireless communication such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi-enabled technologies. Telehealth enables access to healthcare services that might otherwise not be available.

Telehealth use is on the rise in the U.S. Its use is expected to continue to increase as more hospitals and healthcare systems strive to meet increased demand. Telehealth connects patients of diverse populations that may otherwise not have access to needed healthcare services.

The U.S. healthcare system suffers from important gaps. Telehealth helps increase access to care, improves quality, and reduces costs. Telehealth contributes to these three key components of the healthcare system.

2. Example

A patient needs care to manage their diabetes mellitus type one. The patient lives in a rural area with no primary care provider. The patient’s primary care physician is 75 miles away, and the patient does not have reliable transportation to the physician’s office.

The patient has a Bluetooth-enabled continuous blood glucose monitor and insulin pump. The patient’s blood sugar is constantly monitored via the technology, and the patient’s provider receives the data daily. The nurse noticed the patient’s blood sugar was experiencing some dangerous dips during the night. The nurse scheduled a telemedicine visit for the patient.

A telemedicine visit occurred, and the provider had already reviewed the blood sugar data for the patient. After talking with the provider, the patient received a prescription for a change in insulin dosing and was referred to a diabetes education course and a dietician. The patient implemented the changes, and the technology allowed the patient to be monitored remotely.

After two weeks, the nurse scheduled the patient for a telehealth visit. The physician had reviewed the previous two weeks’ worth of blood sugar data. The patient’s blood sugar was trending within a safe range. During that two-week period, the patient also was able to have a telehealth visit with a dietitian and was scheduled for a visit with the diabetic educator. As a result, the patient was able to save 450 miles and 7.5 hours of traveling.

big idea
This example highlights how telehealth increases patient experience by improving access, improving the quality of outcomes, and decreasing costs. It also improves clinician experience by improving the clinician's connection to the patient.