The introduction to telehealth is the basis for understanding health and the impact on health. Telehealth is simply the exchange of health information from one area to another through digital means. Telehealth allows for integration with the electronic health record (EHR) and allows for data analysis. Telehealth can occur through a variety of modalities including from clinician to clinician, clinician to patient, and patient to mobile health technology. Understanding the different modalities of telehealth are important. Telehealth tools are the tools that patients and providers can use for telehealth and telehealth services are the services that can be provided.
EXAMPLETelehealth tools for patient to clinician telehealth services include video, phone, email, and secure Internet communication, and these services may include counseling, medication management, and post-discharge follow-up.
EXAMPLETelehealth services from patient to mobile health technology tools include wearable monitors, games, and mobile apps, and include services like health education and cognitive fitness.
Telehealth is the use of telecommunication technologies and electronic information to support healthcare. This care may consist of long-distance health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration. These technologies are varied and include video conferencing, the Internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and both wireless and wired communication.
Telehealth is essential in rural and remote areas that lack sufficient health care services. The use of telehealth has rapidly expanded due to increasing technology and the ability to coordinate care via Internet-based resources and through electronic means. There are several models of telehealth, including the traditional model of telehealth involve care delivered to a patient at an originating (or spoke) site from a specialist working at a distant (or hub) site. A telehealth network consists of a series of originating sites receiving services from a collaborating distant site.
Telehealth is not without problems. Telehealth needs patient education, and patient experience improvement initiatives are important to improve the use and utilization of telehealth services in healthcare. Telehealth needs to be promoted as a way to enhance continuity of care while reducing costs to both the healthcare system and consumers. Telehealth as a tool in healthcare faces many challenges. These challenges include a lack of knowledge about telehealth. For telehealth to be successful, healthcare professionals need to promote the benefits of telehealth. This includes providers promoting telehealth as a way to access care through different modalities. Instead of patients seeking care in the Urgent Care or Emergency Room, telehealth may be an appropriate modality to provide care. Through promoting and marketing telehealth services, patients have embraced telehealth to meet healthcare needs. It is worthy to note that the utilization of telehealth services has grown at a rate higher than the utilization of other services. Telehealth may be easier to access compared to other forms of health care service, and telehealth may be more cost-effective and timely compared to other services. Especially in times like a pandemic, telehealth may be more efficient and helpful for patients to access care.
Telehealth is important for consumers. Telehealth can empower patients to receive care remotely compared to in person. This is particularly desired by younger patients in the 18-24 year age group compared to any other age group or demographic. Patient education to provide awareness around telehealth is a great tool to address the benefits of telehealth. Additionally, many patients identify a lack of coverage as a barrier to receiving healthcare via telehealth services. Telehealth services in lieu of in-person urgent or emergent visits are a benefit to patients, however, patients are often unaware that this is an option for them.