Telehealth has been around for a while, but during the COVID-19 pandemic its use grew dramatically. COVID-19 has made many of us consider telehealth visits vs in-person ones. For some practitioners that was the only way they saw patients during the pandemic. This healthcare delivery method has advantages for both the practitioner and patient.
Recent studies from the National Institutes of Health showed that 30% of outpatient visits during the pandemic utilized telehealth. While overall medical visits were down, the use of telehealth increased 23 times when comparing months prior and during the COVID-19 pandemic period that began in March 2020.
Telehealth visit advantages:
● Scheduling convenience – less time missed from school or work
● Patients may miss fewer appointments
● Lower costs – telehealth visits are cost effective for families
● Expanded options – visits to out of town specialists are possible without travel
● Increased efficiencies – telehealth visits can allow more time for patient education
● Reduced risk of infection – online visits limit exposure to others and potential contagions in the healthcare practitioners office
Telehealth visit challenges:
● Technology is required for both the patient and practitioner for a successful telehealth appointment including high speed internet connections and web cameras or smart phones.
● Some patients may not be comfortable meeting with healthcare provider over the internet.
What should families consider in choosing between in-person vs telehealth visits?
While telehealth visits can work for an acute infection like strep throat they won’t always be appropriate for asthma patients.
Here are a few scenarios to consider a telehealth appointment for your asthma management:
● Prescription refills for your asthma medications
● Routine follow-up appointments when your symptoms are under control
● New or increased asthma or allergy symptoms that are under control
● Review mild medication side effects
● Asthma education needs like how to use equipment (inhalers, nebulizers) or your medications
However, if you need a test or if your provider needs to check vital signs or breathing, you will likely need to schedule an in-person visit. Examples of a reason for on in-person visit would include new or worsening symptoms that require increased use of a rescue inhaler.
Bottom line – out of control asthma symptoms needs urgent in-person follow-up!
Just like with any regular medical appointment remember to get organized prior to your visit:
● Prepare a list of questions for your healthcare provider
● Confirm what your insurance plan covers in terms of telehealth and any associated costs
● Check out your internet connectivity and test any portal logins prior to the appointment
Telehealth healthcare visits give patients more options to keep their asthma in control and manage symptoms. Check out if your provider uses telehealth and save some time and money on your next visit.
National Institutes of Health article: Patient satisfaction with telemedicine encounters in an allergy and immunology practice during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic
Centers for Disease Control article: Using Telehealth to Expand Access to Essential Health Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic