Ten years ago, if someone told you that you would be able to schedule an appointment and consult with your physician or other care provider via video conferencing, you probably wouldn’t have believed them. Well, here we are, ten years later with the technology to do just that! You can now get the care you need over the internet.
The ways your health care providers are able to communicate with you and get you the services you need continue to improve as technology advances. But how does this virtual visit actually work? Is it a safe way to get the care you need? We’ve got all your answers!
The MayoClinic defines telehealth as, “Telehealth is the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely and manage your health care. These may be technologies you use from home or that your doctor uses to improve or support health care services.”
However, this definition makes it seem as though your family practitioner or primary care provider are the only medical professionals able to use telehealth for their patients. Telehealth is now available for multiple medical disciplines including, but not limited to, your physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons, urgent care providers, and podiatrist.
How Does Telehealth Work?
As long as you have a computer, laptop, tablet, or smart phone, you have access to telehealth services. While your specific provider may not yet be providing the service, many are (especially in today’s circumstances of quarantine).
How each provider asks you to schedule this visit will differ depending on the office. Many of them have either sent you an email with directions on how to schedule or have published instruction on their website or social media channels. Typically, it is as simple as scheduling via phone or by clicking on your preferred time.
After you schedule, the office will instruct you on how you will be meeting with your provider. The medical professional you are trying to speak with who is signed up for telehealth has chosen a specific platform to use (specific to their office). As an example, our office uses a platform called doxy.me. At the time of your appointment, you click on the link that is sent to your email and your provider will virtually “meet” you online. The program most likely will ask for access to your microphone and camera so that your provider can see you and speak with you.
While your visit will not be as hands on as normal, you will still get the care and answers you are looking for. If the provider you are speaking with believes that you need to seek in-person care, they will inform you of so.
Is Your Medical Information Protected? Is Telehealth Safe?
While we cannot speak for every medical professional out there, if done correctly, telehealth is safe! Before our clinic started telehealth, we performed hours of research to find a platform that was HIPAA compliant. We wanted to be sure that the platform we were using protected our clients, their information, and medical history.
As more health care providers jumped onboard with telehealth, more platforms become available with additional features. If you are unsure about a specific platform that your provider is using, you can always inquire from the provider about what means they are taking to protect your information or call the platform specifically to find out and answer any questions you may have.
Who Is Appropriate for Telehealth?
Technology continues to amaze us! We would not be surprised that if, in the not so distant future, most medical care services needed were available by telehealth. However, as of today, there are certain medical specialties that can not yet use telehealth to fully treat their patients. As an example, you may be able to do your initial background visit with a cardiologist via telehealth, but they are going to need to see you in person to perform all of the appropriate tests (I.e. EKGs) to get a full understanding of what may be going on. So, the easier way to answer this question is really, “Who is NOT appropriate for telehealth?”
Almost every medical practice should be able to do their initial visit with you via telehealth. After that, depending on what you discuss and the severity of the problem, they can guide you as to next steps. If testing is required (I.e. blood tests, imaging, etc.), you will be instructed to seek in-person care.
Is Telehealth Covered By My Insurance?
Most insurance companies are in the process of covering telehealth for a number of services, but not all of them are there just yet. The best way to find out if your insurance is covering telehealth is to call and verify your benefits with them. Some medical providers will, also, be able to answer this question for you.
What Does Telehealth Physical Therapy Look Like?
Amidst the COVID-19 quarantine, Envision Sport Physical Therapy is now offering telehealth physical therapy. While you may not receive the manual work that we pride ourselves on providing, we will be able to walk you through relieving your pain while at home.
You will virtually meet with your therapist through doxy.me. When you meet with your therapist, they will speak with you to find out what is currently going on including aggravating and relieving factors. If they believe you would benefit from manual therapy, they can give you some ideas on how to do this at home (either with equipment such as the Hypervolt or stick or using your hands). They will then guide you through your workout including making corrections to your form and modifications if unable to perform certain exercises. At the end of your appointment, they will give you homework to do until your next appointment.
The advancements we have made in the medical profession are amazing! How will it look in 10 years from now? With the introduction of telehealth, anything seems possible.
If you are curious about telehealth physical therapy, have questions on how it works, or need to find a physician that provides telehealth services, we would love to help. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
References MayoClinic, August 2017, "Telehealth: Technology meets health care," https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/telehealth/art-20044878