When Can Telehealth Replace In-Person Care?
Deciding Between In-Person Treatment and Telehealth
The benefits of telehealth are well known. Instead of having patients meet with care providers face-to-face, patients can connect and consult with providers from the comfort of their own home, at school, or anywhere convenient and applicable.
Telehealth can also reduce costs, boost efficiency, and improve patient outcomes by increasing access to care.
With telehealth, patients don’t have to worry about making a long commute, taking time off work, or hiring a babysitter just to see their doctor. Some patients, including the elderly and those suffering from chronic conditions, may be unfit for travel and commuting to the doctor’s office may only worsen their symptoms. All they have to do is connect to the internet using their smartphone, computer, or tablet.
A Word on Legislation
Before you begin a telehealth program, it’s important to remember that telehealth legislation varies from state to state. Care providers may not be credentialed in the locations their patients reside, and reimbursement can vary. Providers should familiarize themselves with local and state laws, so they can decide when telehealth is appropriate and when to see their patients in-person.
When to Replace In-Person Care with Telehealth
Telehealth is a convenient way to interact with patients; there are many different types of patient-provider interactions that may not require in-person care. Here are a few examples to keep in mind:
- The patient is elderly, chronically ill, or suffers from limited mobility
If patients have trouble traveling to and from their local doctor’s office, telehealth may be used as a replacement. Providers can also use remote patient monitoring to check up on patients suffering from a chronic condition or those recovering from surgery.
- Routine follow-ups and consultations
Providers can use telehealth to quickly consult with patients to see if they are recovering as expected. Doctors can use live video and audio to talk to patients about how they’re feeling or whether they’ve experienced any side effects.
- Refilling prescriptions
Patients may not need to come into the office just to update their prescriptions, especially if they have been taking the same drugs for years. Doctors can quickly send their patients e-prescriptions without taking precious time out of their busy schedules.
- Triaging a patient’s symptoms before deciding whether in-person treatment is necessary
If a patient is feeling a little under the weather, they may not know whether they should come into the doctor’s office or if they can get by with over-the-counter medications instead. Providers can use telehealth to quickly triage their patient’s symptoms. If the provider needs more information to diagnose the patient, they can have them come in for an in-person visit.
Many states allow the use of telepsychiatry. Mental healthcare providers can use live video and audio to supplement in-person care, especially if one of their patients is having an emergency or the provider is currently out of town.
When In-Person Care Is Necessary
In some cases, telehealth may not be enough. Here are a few examples of when it’s better for the patient to come into the office:
- Dealing with complex, difficult healthcare symptoms and issues
If the patient is suffering from a complex condition or debilitating disease, or the doctor has yet to prescribe their symptoms, it may be better for the patient to schedule an in-person appointment. The doctor may need to examine the patient in person instead of relying on live video and audio. The doctor may also need to perform a biopsy, x-ray or screen the patient for various diseases and conditions.
- If the patient has trouble using digital devices or accessing the internet
If the patient is older or has limited experience using smartphones, apps, and laptop computers, they may prefer to come in for an in-person appointment. Care providers should do their best to honor these requests whenever possible. If the patient wants to learn more about telehealth, care providers can show them how to use these devices in the office, so they can use them on their own at home.
Some patients will be eager to use telehealth whenever possible, while other patients will prefer coming into the office in person. Use these tips to help your patients and staff make sense of when it’s a good opportunity to use telehealth.