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  • Writer's pictureMark Roberts

Virtual Health

Who has time to go see the doctor these days? Unless you are really sick, many times all you need is a simple diagnosis and possibly a prescription. Virtual health is how many individuals do healthcare today, especially over the past three years due to the Covid pandemic. It’s amazing what a strong internet connection can do to improve your health. As technology continues to advance, you can expect to see even more innovative digital healthcare solutions in the future.

Virtual care, telehealth or telemedicine, and digital health are terms used to describe the delivery of healthcare services through electronic and digital communication technologies. And while they sound similar, they mean different things. Technically, it becomes important to distinguish them from one another, especially for the purposes of billing codes for physicians and medical providers.

According to DoseSpot, a software technology company that provides virtual health services to the healthcare industry, virtual care is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of healthcare services delivered through digital channels. Virtual care includes not only telehealth services but also other forms of digital healthcare, such as online appointments, remote patient monitoring, and virtual visits with doctors or other healthcare providers.

Virtual health encompasses all things in telehealth and digital health. It can also be delivered synchronously, in real time, or asynchronously, where there is a delay between when a patient seeks care and when a healthcare provider responds. With the delay, information is typically collected and shared within an app, patient portal, or secure messaging platform. The information is then transmitted between the healthcare provider and the patient for review later. This type of care is most helpful for non-emergency questions or health events.

Although telemedicine and telehealth sound synonymous, they are not the same. Since the last decade, the quick pace of technological innovations in health care has given birth to new phrases. That said, policymakers and auxiliary medical groups often use these new terms without knowing the proper meaning. This has resulted in an overlap of these terms.

Telehealth and telemedicine have coexisted for a considerable amount of time; and, therefore, people often use them together. While both have similar features, there is a wide range of differences between the two. The term telemedicine loosely translates to healing through distance. On the other hand, telehealth refers to “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration.” Furthermore, telemedicine clinics only offer clinical services, whereas telehealth encompasses clinical and non-clinical services such as provider training, medical education and more.

Telemedicine is a successful way of delivering high-quality care to patients remotely. Patients can get in touch with specialists to seek a quick resolution for their health issues without leaving the comfort of their homes. Check out some of the benefits patients can reap when using a telemedicine provider service.

Lower Costs

Patients can reach doctors and clinic professionals through video chat on mobile phones; there is no need to travel to the clinic. This saves both time and money while increasing their overall experience.

Enhance Preventive Care

Patients can enable preventive care easily through telemedicine. They can access emergency care that drastically improves their health outcomes. For patients with limited access to care, telemedicine can bridge the gap between the two.

Improve Access to Care

For underserved patients residing in rural areas, telemedicine is a boon that provides them unlimited access to care. In addition, people with disabilities can also get access to care from their homes.

Reduce the Spread of Infections

Patients with infections often sit close to each other at doctors’ clinics. Through telemedicine, patients can avoid spreading infections and keep themselves safe from exposure.

Provide Convenience

The most crucial benefit of telemedicine is its convenience to patients and clinics alike. Patients can schedule consultations between work and other events. This can improve patient satisfaction manifold and improve retention for clinics.

However, there are a few disadvantages of using telemedicine. Some concerns have been raised in the healthcare industry as well as the regulatory environment about the security and efficacy of virtual healthcare. As society moves ever faster toward virtual living in many areas, healthcare technology has been experiencing an organic development and increase in implementation, but not without some consideration of certain risks.

Limited Insurance Options

As mentioned above, telemedicine is relatively new in the health care segment. Therefore, not all insurance providers cover telemedicine. However, with time, laws are constantly being updated and rewritten.

At-risk Data Security

It is essential for medical clinics to keep patient data protected through several encryptions and security protocols. Hackers and phishing agents are always on the hunt to hack servers and steal sensible patient data available on public servers. Many virtual healthcare providers may store digital copies of data in an unsecured setting, making them vulnerable to hacking and identity theft. Furthermore, these providers do not necessarily provide enough continuity of care for their clients, who may experience sudden changes in health status that require fast decisions on treatment options.

  • It will throw up new legal issues. Even with in-person check-ups and treatment, cases against doctors are common. Virtual healthcare will need its codicil to protect both doctors and patients.

  • There are no set standards for the health market, and this lack of standardization can lead to a loss of confidence from customers due to security breaches or inappropriate care.

  • And most importantly, there are serious security and confidentiality concerns. With the involvement of a third party, users need to be very careful of the information they store on their mHealth apps, and providers need to ensure compliance with operational guidelines to avoid a data breach.

Delayed Care

Telemedicine can also pose unwanted delays in paths of care. In an emergency, access to telemedicine can be troublesome with low internet bandwidth, among other limitations.

Digital Divide

Although virtual healthcare can improve access for underserved populations, what happens when those patients don’t have internet access or can’t afford the mobile phones or other remote monitoring tools needed to make virtual healthcare work? What about patients who may not be comfortable navigating the technology? Care and insurance providers must figure out a way to design a hybrid healthcare experience that doesn’t leave segments of the population behind.

Telemedicine utilization has definitely increased in the past three years, primarily due to the Covid pandemic. The CDC reported that in 2021, 37% of adults had used telehealth of some type within a twelve month period. Physicians have also more widely adopted the practice and feel it is here to stay. Here are some common elements of a telehealth visit.

  • Both provider and patient expect to communicate from separate locations using telephones, mobile phones, personal computers, or devices like a tablet with video conferencing capabilities.

  • Services can include routine checkups, consultations, and follow-up visits.

  • Appointments are typically conducted in real-time, with a healthcare provider interacting with a patient in a virtual setting.

  • Prescriptions can be written using ePrescribing software to transmit selected therapies directly to the patient’s pharmacy of choice to get filled.

Digital health refers to the use of digital technologies, such as mobile apps, wearables, ePrescriptions, and electronic health records, to improve health outcomes and patient care. Digital health technologies can also be used to monitor patients remotely, provide health education, track health data, and enhance communication between patients and healthcare providers. An article published last year by Fierce Healthcare, while looking back to 2021 results, reported that digital health startups raised over $29 billion dollars. The behavioral healthcare, musculoskeletal, and diabetic markets are proving to be the biggest innovators. Here are some additional examples of technology making a difference:

  • Remote Patient Monitoring: This technology allows healthcare providers to monitor patients’ health remotely using different devices and sensors, such as wearables and smart devices. The data collected can help healthcare providers identify potential health problems before they become more serious, allowing for early intervention.

  • Digital Therapeutics: Technology used to deliver therapeutic interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or medication management. Digital therapeutics can be accessed via mobile apps, web-based programs, or other electronic platforms.

  • ePrescriptions: Medications can be prescribed and sent directly to the patient’s pharmacy of choice, eliminating the need for paper prescriptions.

  • Electronic Health Records: This is a digital version of a patient’s medical record, which can be accessed by authorized healthcare providers from anywhere in the world. EHRs can improve the efficiency and accuracy of healthcare delivery while ensuring patient privacy and security.

Virtual health encompasses “at-a-distance” interactions to further the care, health, and well-being of customers in a connected, coordinated manner—all while continuing the evolution of more humanized health care. Through the ability to share data, drive content, and create personalized interactions remotely, virtual health offers convenient, high-quality access that enhances provider-patient interactions and meets consumer health care expectations.

When you have health concerns, you want answers. But not all concerns need an in-person visit with your doctor. That’s where virtual care comes in. Virtual care lets you meet with your doctor by phone or video visit. There’s no need to drive or take time off work. All you need is a computer, tablet or smartphone. You can also connect to your doctor and see your health records using the patient portal.

Virtual care services vary by location. Many health plans include a virtual care component, and the cost is usually close to in-person care. Check with your doctor’s office or health plan to learn more. Your doctor can also tell you if a virtual visit is right for your health concerns. Note: Virtual care is not for serious or life-threatening concerns. If you need emergency care, call 911.

The vulnerability in the healthcare system boosted the idea of medical software development and dramatically increased the popularity of virtual health. It was noted that during the early weeks of the pandemic, virtual visits increased by over 11,000% over pre-pandemic levels. The aspect of virtual health has gained momentum. It is becoming crucial in helping consumers maintain and improve their well-being and playing an important role in diagnosing and treating illness.

Plus, according to research conducted by Deloitte, 50% of executives thought at least a quarter of all outpatient care, preventive care, long-term care, and well-being services would move to virtual delivery by 2040. Some experts predict U.S. healthcare spending could shift up to $250 billion to virtual care in the coming years, according to Forbes. The return is well worth the effort, as virtual healthcare offers an opportunity to lower costs, enhance patient experience, improve population health, improve the work life of health care providers, and usher in a new wave of industry innovation.

Many individuals do not have a virtual care benefit. For those people, several companies offer voluntary plans for you and your family. As a licensed agent, I have access to several virtual care programs for general health, mental health, and more. See more on my website under wellness and virtual health. I can help you save time and money using an affordable virtual health product.

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