The Benefits of Telehealth
As the world has turned upside down a bit lately, people everywhere have turned their attention towards a tool that has actually existed since the 1960s: telehealth.
For decades, doctors have been able to remotely send medical information to patients in some form or another. However, only recently has the use of telehealth truly skyrocketed. Nowadays, telehealth primarily consists of electronic consultants, video conferencing, and remote monitoring. The 2020 pandemic was a huge catalyst for telehealth’s newfound popularity. It allowed us to see how amazingly simple a doctor visit can be, and also why professionals are encouraging its use for the foreseeable future.
It’s hard to justify the gas it takes to drive to the doctor’s office, let alone the tedious time spent in the waiting room, when you can easily access medical information almost instantaneously online. Time isn’t the only thing that the convenience of telehealth saves. Evidence shows that telehealth has led to the early detection of potentially life-threatening diseases that patients would have otherwise ignored. Picture this: A man starts to notice numbness in his left arm. It doesn’t hinder his daily routine much, so he decides to ignore it—there’s no time to schedule or travel to a doctor’s appointment. Time passes and it turns out that the man was showing signs of cardiovascular disease. He suffers a heart attack. On the other hand, picture this: The same man starts to notice numbness in his left arm. He’s not too worried, but he is curious, so he contacts a telehealth provider right away. The telehealth provider tells him that his symptoms are unusual and convinces him to set up a health check. At the health check, the beginning stages of cardiovascular disease are detected, and the man is prescribed medication and encouraged to alter his diet. He does not suffer a heart attack. Of course, this is an extreme situation, but it really illustrates how telehealth can transform healthcare and be a helpful tool in getting back to better health.
In the same way that telehealth can direct unsuspecting patients to necessary treatment, it can deter healthy patients from expensive, unnecessary treatment. For example, the Chronic Care Management telehealth program at Frederick Memorial Hospital has cut ER visits in half and reduced hospitalizations by 90 percent. In the 90s, The Veteran’s Health Administration introduced a telehealth system to its patients. By 2012, the cost of the VHA’s program was just $1600 annually per patient. Compare this to the $13,000 annual cost for traditional home-based care and the $77,000 annual cost for nursing home care, and we see just how cost-effective telehealth can be. The VHA estimated that they saved each patient an average of $6500 that year.