Access to healthcare is important for all people to remain healthy and to increase their chances of living long enough to see their golden years. Of course, this became an issue when the world experienced the global Covid-19 pandemic which forced people to be more cautious in going out in public and having contact with others for fear of potentially being infected by a highly contagious and lethal virus. One way many were able to overcome this challenge was through telehealth.

What is telehealth?
The utilization of telecommunication services to provide healthcare services is referred to as telehealth. This empowers patients to communicate with their healthcare providers to receive the medical services they require via smartphones, computer, or tablet devices. Along with clinical care, telehealth includes health education services such as nutrition classes and diabetes management courses. Note that this is different from telemedicine which more narrowly refers to virtual delivery of clinical care.

How is telehealth used?
Through telecommunication services patients can access various healthcare services from their providers. These services can include routine checkups with your doctor and other medical services providers. Screenings for various health conditions can be offered via telehealth.
You can also receive nutrition counseling, weight management coaching, and support for a variety of other health aspects. Follow-up appointments after a stay in the hospital can also be conducted through telehealth. Long-term care facility residents can use telehealth to receive nonemergency care.
Additionally, those living in more rural areas may find it difficult to find in-person providers for the particular medical services they need. Therefore, telehealth can be a more practical alternative.

Insurance for telehealth
How telehealth is covered by medical insurance providers will vary from state-to-state. Most states have some sort of private payer policy which generally requires insurance coverage or reimbursement that is comparable to the coverage provided by in-person visits to providers of healthcare. The District of Columbia and 43 states have in place some type of private payer policy. Some telehealth services may also be eligible for reimbursement from Medicare.

Privacy concerns
The increase in telehealth services may present challenges surrounding security and privacy concerns. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the government to lower the standards for privacy in order to accommodate access to medical service through telecommunications. By lifting certain restrictions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) the government empowered patients to communicate with their healthcare providers virtually. However, you should be aware that HIPAA requirements may be set to be reinstated at some point when the pandemic has subsided.

Is telehealth an option for you?
It is possible that many of your medical and healthcare needs can be fulfilled through telehealth, even after the Covid-19 crisis is over. On the other hand, once HIPAA is fully reinstated certain types of medical services may no longer be allowed via telehealth. It is a good idea to stay up to date as much as possible on the latest changes in policies so you can be prepared to make any adjustments necessary.



Any opinions are those of the author and not necessarily Raymond James. Any information provided is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation.