COVID-19 has made many changes to our world that may be here to stay. One of those is the proliferation of telehealth, which allows people to access healthcare remotely.
This allows more people to receive the services they need. Telehealth was originally developed to get basic care to people in rural areas who lived far from a healthcare provider. Since then, we’ve seen the many benefits of having a remote option, especially as we deal with a public health crisis in which staying safe means being apart.
According to an article in The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, “Telehealth provides access to resources and care for patients in rural areas or areas with provider shortages, improves efficiency without higher net costs, reduces patient travel and wait times, and allows for comparable or improved quality of care. Better access to care, convenience, and reduced stress with telehealth use also can increase patient satisfaction.”
Barriers to Access
However, there are barriers that make it difficult for some people to receive quality telehealth services. While providing healthcare remotely theoretically means a person can seek specialty care that doesn’t exist in their state without having to travel, regulatory standards make this difficult.
The Journal for Nurse Practitioners again, “Telehealth practitioners can provide medical services across geographic borders, sharing clinical expertise with patients and other health care providers. The lack of multistate licensure presents a barrier to telehealth because providers must obtain and uphold licensure (and the associated medical education and financial obligations) in multiple states.” Additionally, telehealth regulations differ a lot by state and are often changing, which can make it difficult for healthcare providers to do their jobs.
Accessing telehealth in the first place may be a challenge for some, as not everyone has a computer or internet access. There’s also a worry that patients miss something when they don’t receive face-to-face care or in-person examinations. However, telehealth should generally be considered a supplement to in-person care.
Overall, the fact that telehealth has become so ubiquitous is great. It allows for physicians and patients to have ongoing communication, which means more comprehensive care. It decreases some access barriers, especially for people who don’t have transportation. Hopefully, as we use this technology more, improvements will be made so that more people can access telehealth and receive quality care.
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