Remote healthcare has been around for a while but has become much more common during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine period. Lots of patients are experimenting with receiving their routine and non-urgent healthcare through virtual appointments for the first time. And many providers actually discouraged or eliminated in-person appointments in favor of online consultations for these types of issues in order to comply with state and federal business closure measures, to protect their employees, and to prioritize in-person care and resources for those with serious injury or illness during this time.
With the expanded use of these tools, we need a little more clarity about how these resources are defined and how they work. Telehealth and telemedicine are distinct remote healthcare concepts.
Telemedicine: remote clinical services, such as consultations with a doctor, assessment of health conditions, physical therapy or mental health therapy appointments
Telehealth: a broader categorization of remote healthcare services, including telemedicine, but also including non-clinical services such as provider training, healthcare administrative meetings, continuing medical education – essentially various components of a well-functioning healthcare ecosystem. Telehealth is defined as “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration,” by the Health Resources Services Administration.
How Does Telehealth Work?
Telehealth services are administered virtually by a healthcare professional to a patient. This can happen over various webcam interfaces such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc., but more commonly occurs over provider-specific portals designed to have increased privacy and security protections. Some of these platforms are web browser based while others are custom applications. The patient and the provider log in for a video call where they can hear each other over their device microphones and see each other through device webcams. Sometimes telehealth is also referring to other virtual platforms for doctor/patient communication – like a portal with a designated messaging system or other check-in features.
These virtual functionalities are extremely convenient, allowing the patient to meet with their provider from the comfort of their own home, and the provider to meet from a safer office or home setting as well. In addition, during the current crisis, telemedicine access has been expanded so providers can see patients not only from their local practice area, but also from farther away, even in other states.
Thompson Law works with many practitioner partners who currently offer either in-person visits, telehealth functionality, or both. If you have a need for medical consultation, follow up, or treatment after an accident, reach out anytime to learn more about your options to receive the medical help you need, all while staying safe. You could even say we provide “Tele-Law” services right now, with our staff working from home for social distancing purposes, but still providing our full range of personal injury services to our existing clients and taking new cases every day!
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Benefits of Telehealth Services
It’s difficult to find criticism of telehealth options at this time. The vast majority of conversation around these products and services is that they help serve a need for routine and non-urgent care during this complicated period. Some patients and providers have expressed limited frustrations about the platforms used for virtual calling or work-from-home technology, such as when the tech fails or call resolution or sound quality is low. Generally, these issues are episodic and easily avoidable or correctable through a simple restart or reschedule.
Stay in the comfort and safety of your own home for a consultation.
Avoid risk of being exposed to illness while visiting a doctor’s office.
Avoid risk of spreading your illness to others during and in-person visit.
Avoid adding to the exposure our front line and medical workers are currently facing.
Skip the drive too and from the doctor’s office, especially while you are feeling bad.
Overwhelmed doctors’ offices can see patients more quickly virtually than in person.
Less cleaning is required for doctors’ offices than when patients are visiting in-person.
Minor issues like follow ups or prescription refills can be handled more quickly and easily.
Some health insurance charge patients a lower rate for telemedicine appointments, especially during the current crisis.
Some providers charge insurance companies a lower rate for these appointments, especially if the appointment duration can be shorter.
Who is Telemedicine for?
Telehealth services can really work for so many people from widely varied and diverse groups, but the technology has particular value in rural areas where COVID-19 death rates are higher, and where even in more stable times, there are struggles to recruit and retain talented medical providers.
The US News & World Report states, “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees health coverage for more than 37 million Americans with Medicare, expanded the type of telehealth visits it would pay for, and last week the federal agency said it would pay providers the same rates for phone calls as it would for video visits.” Advocates hope that expanded telehealth access that has occurred as a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic will remain for the long term. Certainly, the benefits to patients and providers are there.
Additionally, younger patients have been open to, and optimistic about, telemedicine for years. Research as early as 2016 found that millennials were extremely disheartened about the state of healthcare and had strong interest in expanded services for medical care, including measures like telemedicine apps and other digital consultation resources.
Another finding from that study was that individuals with children in the house, parents and caretakers, were also much more likely to desire a virtual option for medical support. Specifically, when asked about situations where care was needed in the middle of the night, respondents with children were 67% more likely to be in favor of telemedicine availability.
Since that report in 2016, technology ease of use and access has increased dramatically. Younger generations assumed to be more tech savvy are certainly not the only comfortable consumers of this type of tech, as clearly evidenced by explosion of telehealth platforms during the current crisis.
In the personal injury space, the attorneys and legal experts at Thompson Law have had experience for years with medical treatment involving telemedicine. Our exposure has increased during the recent quarantine period, and our team is uniquely equipped to connect you with great virtual medical resources should you need them. If you’ve been hurt in an accident, need an injury attorney and need help getting medical treatment, please know you have a dedicated and compassionate resource just a phone call away with Thompson Law.
Call (844) 308-8180
What’s the Prognosis for Telehealth?
Many of the relaxed telehealth guidelines will expire when the COVID-19 national state of emergency period is over. But advocates and users alike hope that the approaches taken during the pandemic can be codified into healthcare law for future practice. The safety benefits, efficiencies for our maxed-out systems, and increased access for underserved communities are collectively too important to give up.
Particularly since the expansion of telemedicine services accepted by Medicare and Medicaid in response to COVID-19 quarantine measures, other major private health insurance companies like BlueCross BlueShield, Aetna, Cigna, and more have expanded their accepted offerings too. The efficiencies and benefits at this time may convince these companies to continue current practices into the future.
The Future of Telehealth for You
If telemedicine is a service that would benefit your healthcare regimen, check with your insurance provider and healthcare providers about the options available to you. To help you research your options, here are a few additional resources on telemedicine:
- BlueCross BlueShield
- United Health
- Kaiser Foundation
- Expanded Measures for COVID-19 Response
Telehealth in Your Personal Injury Case
It’s true that the personal injury experts at Thompson Law may be well known for incredible case results, strong representation of clients hurt in car accidents, 18-wheeler wrecks and other devastating accidents – but we care deeply about the health and well-being of the clients we serve. An important part of considering a case outcome successful for us is seeing our clients make the absolute best recovery possible. For this reason, telehealth resources that help make that recovery happen are extremely valuable to us.
If you have any questions about your ongoing personal injury case and your how telehealth treatment may be impacting it, reach out to Thompson Law. If you’ve been hurt in an accident and haven’t reached out to us yet – please do so now! The sooner you speak to us in a free, no-risk consultation, the sooner we can show you the resources you have to get on the road to physical recovery and financial relief.
Call (844) 308-8180
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