Let’s get techy with it! Okay, probably 99% of people reading this didn’t find my reference to the 1997 hit “Let’s Get Jiggy With It” funny but this COVID-19 is making me loopy. Now that I’ve already digressed, the rest of this should be a breeze…
The current pandemic affecting the world is changing how we connect with one another both personally and professionally. I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful that technology has grown in the last decade so that we can still connect with one another while in quarantine. Here at RehabGAB, we’ve been seeing that a lot of healthcare providers are using telemedicine and/or telehealth to offer services to their clients. But what does that really mean? And how can we use some of that same technology to connect with our friends and family too? Let’s explore…
What is telemedicine and telehealth?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines telemedicine as “healing from a distance.” Surprisingly, it’s not new. It started in the 1950’s and was used by healthcare providers to offer their services via the telephone. Today, telemedicine typically refers to a clinical provider offering services from one location to patients at an offsite location.
The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) defines telemedicine as the “use of medical information exchange from one sit to another via electronic communication to improve a patient’s clinical health status.” More simply stated, telehealth refers to the broad technology infrastructure that allows for clinical and non-clinical providers to offer healthcare services to the community. Fun fact, it was in the 1970’s that telehealth was used by NASA to keep astronauts safe while exploring space.
Is it safe?
Regulatory bodies, such as the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and technology companies are always looking for ways to protect their consumers’ privacy. As with everything, there are risks involved when there are cyber criminals working in opposition, but when access to services would otherwise be limited, telemedicine is a good option to consider.
What services are available via telehealth?
Commonly offered telehealth services include: psychotherapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, personal trainers, case management, clinical social workers, dieticians, and more! Please note that each company is different and while some offer telehealth services, others will not. In the current marketplace, many professionals have increased or started to offer their services in this way but may decrease their online services after the quarantine is lifted.
Why try it?
- The number one reason to try telehealth? Access. It offers you the ability to connect with professionals you may otherwise have difficulty connecting with given transportation or schedule limitations. With time changes, you can have 24/7 access to people who live in other parts of the country, or world!
- In addition to increased access, services may be available at a reduced cost compared to 1:1 visits.
- Can’t get everyone into one room? Telehealth allows for multiple team members to collaborate and use a comprehensive approach when discussing care and making decisions.
- Decreased travel time to and from appointments.
- Increased consistency for check-ins and education for patients with chronic conditions.
Does insurance cover the cost of telemedicine?
It depends. There are many factors in whether or not this is a covered benefit. Some of the moving factors include your insurance provider, the service you are requesting and your general access to services. For example, if you live in a rural area, your insurance provider may consider approving a service to be delivered virtually. Connect with both your insurance and medical provider directly to get your questions answered.
That’s all great, but what if I just want to “see” my friends and family? Here’s a list of frequently used companies/Apps that can help you connect in a non-medical way:
- Amazon Chime
- Facebook Messenger
- House Party
- WhatsApp Messenger
Know of more? Have questions? Let us know! We’d love to connect with you!
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
American Occupational Therapy Association
American Physical Therapy Association
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
American Telemedicine Association
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
National Association of Social Workers – CA Chapter
The American Academy of Pediatrics