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What Is Telehealth?

writtenByWritten by: Jennifer Nelson
Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer is a contributing health writer who has been researching and writing health content with PlushCare for 3 years. She is passionate about bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to people everywhere.

Read more posts by this author.

December 11, 2020 Read Time - 6 minutes

What Is Telehealth?

In the midst of the pandemic, you may be wondering what telehealth is and if it’s a good alternative to your doctor’s office.

The idea of seeing an online doctor was already increasing in popularity before COVID-19 struck. By 2025, the telehealth industry is projected to exceed $64.1 billion in the U.S. and 90% of providers say telehealth increases patient access, communication, and satisfaction.

Now the public is realizing how virtual visits can not only help them get healthcare without the risks associated with going into a clinic, but how much easier it is to be treated online.

Here’s all you need to know about telehealth visits, so you can decide whether it’s right for you and your family.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

What Is The Difference Between Telehealth and Telemedicine?

Telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services (such as having a video appointment with a doctor and prescriptions electronically sent to your pharmacy).

Telehealth technology covers a much broader range of services, including things like continuing medical education, provider training, and remote monitoring of blood pressure or blood sugar. 

While many people use the two terms interchangeably, telemedicine is technically one part of telehealth as a whole. 

What Is the Purpose of Telehealth?

Telehealth has many purposes, including:

  • Making healthcare more accessible for people who live in rural areas or have limited time, mobility, or transportation options
  • Improving coordination of care and communication between a patient and members of their healthcare team
  • Providing access to medical specialists
  • Providing support for self-management of health care

Read: Telehealth Guide


What Is a Telehealth Visit? 

What happens during a telehealth appointment? Whether it’s through video appointments, phone appointments, or a telehealth app, you’ll speak to a licensed doctor about your symptoms as well as your medical history and any medications you take.

The doctor will ask you some questions and ultimately come to a diagnosis. Then they’ll work with you to create a comprehensive treatment plan and if it’s appropriate, the doctor will electronically send prescriptions to your local pharmacy. 

Telehealth visits are just like in-person visits, the only difference is you can get treated from the comfort of your home, or even on the go!


Read: How to Make the Most of Your Telehealth Visit


Telehealth Uses 

A few potential examples of telehealth uses include:

  • Remote monitoring of patients
  • Connecting hospitals in remote areas with specialists
  • Video appointments
  • Tools for helping people manage their own health
  • Email reminders for preventive care

Who Can Use Telehealth?

Just about anybody can use telehealth! From individuals patients and providers to hospitals!

For online video appointments you will need a mobile device or computer with a webcam as well as an internet connection.

Some telehealth appointments can be done over a regular phone call in which case a phone and cell service is required.

Does Insurance Pay for Telehealth?

Telehealth coverage varies by insurance plan, but thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, more insurers than ever, including Medicare, are covering telehealth services.

Typically, you only need to pay your regular copay for a telehealth appointment. Check with your insurance company to see what type of telehealth services are covered and what your copay will be. 

At PlushCare we accept and are in-network with all major insurance providers including: Aetna, Blue Shield, Humana, Anthem Blue Cross, Cigna, United Healthcare and more.


Read: Doctors for Patients Without Insurance


HIPAA Compliance and Telehealth

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) requires healthcare companies to maintain the privacy of your protected patient information.

Everything about a telehealth company’s website, from patient portals (where patients can access test results, request prescription refills, and more) to their Electronic Personal Health Records System, must follow many rules to ensure that your private information is protected. 

Your information should be as secure with a telehealth company as in a regular healthcare setting.

Before booking with a telehealth company make sure they openly state that they are HIPAA compliant.


Read: HIPAA Compliant Telehealth Programs


Benefits of Telehealth

Telehealth has a variety of benefits, including:

  • Reduced waiting time
  • Less chance of catching a new illness
  • No transportation costs or time
  • Remote monitoring, which can improve patient engagement
  • No child or elder care conflicts
  • Reduced costs for doctors and patients
  • No need to take time off work
  • Better healthcare quality
  • Improved patient satisfaction
  • More convenient than in-person care
  • Expanded access to care
  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Drawbacks of Telehealth

While there are many benefits of telehealth, there are some drawbacks, too, which may include:

  • Insurance coverage: While more insurance companies than ever are covering access to telehealth, there is no law requiring it. Make sure you check your insurance coverage to see whether telehealth is covered. 
  • Care delays: Some health issues simply can’t be addressed with a telehealth appointment. Seeking a telemedicine appointment first may delay emergency care.
  • Protecting medical information: Telehealth companies must protect your health information the same as in-person doctors, but hackers are more of a risk with telehealth.

Should I use Telehealth?

Only you can decide whether a virtual doctor appointment is right for you. Here are some examples of instances where telehealth may be a good option:

  • Acne
  • Anxiety
  • Cold and flu
  • Depression
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Rashes
  • Headaches
  • STDs
  • Sore throat
  • Sinus infection
  • PrEP
  • Prescription refills
  • Thyroid disorders
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Birth control

There are some situations that you will need to see a doctor in person for, such as:

  • Suspected fractures, where you need to get an x-ray
  • Problems that require an MRI, CT scan, ultrasound, or other imaging
  • Complicated or inter-related health issues
  • Prescription for a controlled substance like Xanax, Adderall, or Oxycodone

How Do I Get Telehealth?

Your insurance company may require you to use a specific website or company for telehealthcare. Without insurance, you can look for the best telemedicine company to fit your budget and needs. 

With PlushCare, getting telehealth is as easy as clicking here or calling (888)798-0620 to schedule an appointment.

Membership costs $14.99 per month, and with insurance you’ll pay your typical office copay. Appointments without insurance cost $119.

With a PlushCare membership, you can message your care team between appointments and make same-day appointments.  

Give telehealth a try and book your appointment with PlushCare today.


Read More About Telehealth


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Mayo Clinic. Telehealth: Technology meets health care. Accessed on July 21, 2020 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/telehealth/art-20044878#:~:text=Telehealth%20is%20the%20use%20of,or%20support%20health%20care%20services.

American Academy of Pediatrics. What Is Telehealth? Accessed on July 21, 2020 at https://www.aap.org/en-us/professional-resources/practice-transformation/telehealth/Pages/What-is-Telehealth.aspx

HealthIT.gov. What is telehealth? How is telehealth different from telemedicine? Accessed on July 21, 2020 at https://www.healthit.gov/faq/what-telehealth-how-telehealth-different-telemedicine

HHS. Summary of the HIPAA Security Rule. Accessed on July 24, 2020 at https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/security/laws-regulations/index.html

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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