While these services existed before the Covid-19 outbreak hit the United States, they have definitely undergone an expansion in the last few months. You've almost certainly heard of telehealth services- seen advertisements for it, heard it talked about in the news, or seen people mentioning it. But while you may have a vague idea of what it means, the details escape you.
This article aims to help make you feel more informed about the topic.
The first thing to know about telehealth services is that telehealth is a very broad term, and can mean lots of different things. Sometimes it is referred to as telemedicine, which falls under the same broad umbrella. In general, it is a term that is applied to remotely accessing health resources through electronic means. Again, it's very broad. Most commonly it comes up when talking about, for example, doing check ups during a video call, and things like that. It's very useful for dealing with special ailments or injuries remotely. Rural areas have less access to specialists or even medical personnel in general, so using telehealth services can help a rural patient get in touch with the medical specialist they need to talk to.
Of course, currently, it is also extremely useful for dealing with the spread and containment of the Covid-19 virus. Because patients can talk to health workers remotely, they can discuss health issues without exposing the health workers to the virus. Because doctors have to work with a variety of patients, this cuts off a potential route for the virus to take. Of course, it works in the opposite way as well- the patient is not exposed to the doctor, who is more likely to have been exposed to the virus than people in general are. (This is a broad characterization, and is not true of all doctors and health care professionals.)
Additionally, you can send data via telehealth services. In a situation where you might be treating Covid-19 at home, your doctor may be remotely monitoring your heart rate, your blood pressure, and your blood oxygen levels, to determine if you need more intensive care in the hospital, or if you seem to be holding steady, or recovering.
This also applies to many chronic conditions, of course.
While there are limitations to telehealth services, naturally, the current national heath conditions means that more and more health providers are moving to using telehealth services.