As the COVID-19 pandemic closes medical offices, more and more providers are recognizing and embracing telehealth virtual care as the best way to enable patients to “see the doctor” while keeping both parties safe. On the cusp of 2021, the coronavirus has now been part of our reality for the past nine months. And still, some patients and providers have misconceptions about telehealth, its lasting power and the benefits it provides. Here, we debunk 7 of the most common telehealth myths.
1. “Telehealth is only a temporary solution during COVID.”
Some providers assume that telehealth is only a temporary fix. “When the pandemic is over, it’s back to business as usual.” That’s risky thinking. The truth is patients want both in-office and telehealth options. A telehealth visit saves patients travel and wait time, keeps them safe from infection, and doesn’t require a babysitter. Think beyond brick and mortar to what is possible with a hybrid practice.
2. “Telehealth is only for people who live far from a hospital or medical office.”
While telehealth brings care to people who live far from a practitioner’s office, it offers the same conveniences to anybody who has a busy schedule and struggles to attend appointments. And because providers can do telehealth virtual visits from their own homes, a practice can expand its “after hours” schedule with telehealth appointments.
3. “Telehealth is just for urgent care visits.”
Many people take advantage of telehealth visits for acute, same-day needs. But telehealth virtual visits are equally effective for follow-up appointments, wellness visits, medication management, monitoring chronic conditions, and more. A provider’s schedule can contain a mix of in-person and virtual visits. What’s more, a specialist can join the visit virtually, too.
4. “A provider can’t do a thorough exam with telehealth.”
During a video-only virtual visit, a provider can visually assess the patient, take history, screen, discuss symptoms, review medications and educate the patient. However … give the patient some vital sign devices and now they can report on their blood pressure, temperature, SP02 or blood sugar. Connect the patient to a telediagnostic kit and now a remote provider can hear lung and heart auscultations and use otoscopes and dermatology lenses to closely examine the patient. There are limits to telehealth, but not as many as some people think!
5. “Telehealth undermines the relationship between patients and their doctor.”
Interestingly, telehealth can actually strengthen the relationship between patients and their doctors, especially if virtual visits are interspersed with face-to-face visits. There is an intimacy to telehealth that is different from being in an exam room with the provider. On video, the provider and patient are face-to-face without masks. The provider can see some of the patient’s surroundings and may ask about them. More patient touches, including video check-ins, can be delivered to patients who need to be seen frequently.
6. “Telehealth is just a phone call or video visit with a care provider.”
During the coronavirus Public Health Emergency, CMS permitted providers to bill for phone visits using the telehealth code. This will end. And, in truth, a phone call is not a genuine telehealth visit, which is more properly defined as synchronous video between the patient and provider. Primary care providers use telehealth to create an envelope of care around each patient, particularly the chronically ill, that can exceed traditional medicine.
7. “Telehealth only happens in patient homes.”
Telehealth technology makes it possible to bring care to wherever the patient is located: at the fire department, at school, in the grocery store, at the pharmacy, inside community clinics, at the office, on ships, and more. Creative telehealth mindsets make the sky the limit.