Many of us were introduced to telehealth before we fully realized what it was. Perhaps your doctor suggested you download an app to book appointments or create an online account to receive test results. While it certainly isn’t a new phenomenon, it is something that has been underutilized until now. Some are reluctant to make use of it because it’s outside of our comfort zone, but it is a convenient way of giving and receiving care.
To some, telehealth is still a mystical and complex idea, but it doesn’t have to be. Considering the circumstances due to COVID-19 it is the safest option for many right now. Here are things you should know about telehealth and how you can make the most of it now and in the near future.
Telehealth can be confusing and overwhelming at times. What exactly is it and how does it work? In essence, telehealth is the delivery of healthcare through the use of technology. This could include sending information between healthcare professionals and delivering actual services to patients.
In as much as this may seem straightforward to some, you may still have looming questions. How do you know which services can be received virtually and which can’t? How much will it cost and how long is the wait time? These are all valid questions that could run through your mind. Although every provider is different, most are presently delivering the following telehealth services:
If you're part of the recovery community, there are several services you can receive via telehealth be it support group meetings or counseling. The pandemic has affected those living with addiction in a significant way, so pulling from all of the resources available right now is key. It’s critical to note that some services are only available during the pandemic and could change later. Always check in with your service provider to ensure rates are the same and services are covered within your plan.
It would be wrong to assume that everyone has personal insurance as some receive coverage through their employers. If you fall under that umbrella, your employer may cover the costs. According to AHIP, almost 60 percent of large employers in the U.S. include telehealth in the coverage they provide. To confirm, contact your employer and find out before receiving services.
Before the pandemic, telehealth services weren’t accessible to everyone. They were more so reserved for people who lived in rural areas and found it difficult to commute to a physical location to receive care. Also, telehealth services sometimes came at an added cost which could deter people from making use of them.
However, when the pandemic began, the 1135 waiver was introduced to ensure access to a wider range of services without people having to travel. To remove barriers to accessing telehealth services, policy makers and insurance providers are getting rid of co-pays, and deductibles. If you’ve tried to access any yourself, you may have noticed your provider waived out of pocket costs for telehealth services or charged you the same rate as an in-person visit. In many cases, telehealth services may even be cheaper than in-person visits. A 2016 study in health affairs found a virtual office visit averages at $79, while going to a physical location could cost up to $146.
However, not all providers have updated their policies, so be sure the cost is waived, especially if you aren’t using an in-network medical professional.
Some have an affinity to in-person services because they feel they’ll receive better service face-to-face. However, this isn’t necessarily true. There are certain services that have to be received in person, but others can be delivered at the same standard virtually. As long as there’s a functioning internet connection, you can be effectively evaluated or administered treatment from the comfort of your home or any other space.