Telehealth: Remote Healthcare — April 2016

Telehealth: Remote Healthcare — April 2016


Transforming Modern Medical Care

While healthcare has traditionally been delivered in a doctor’s office, hospital or outpatient clinic, technology continues to transform modern medical care. Telehealth is a broad term to describe remote healthcare services using video-conferencing equipment, mobile devices, internet access, remote monitoring devices and other tools. Telehealth promises to increase the contact between a patient and his or her providers, especially for those who live in rural areas or for whom travel to a medical facility is difficult (or even for busy working parents).

Because it can save travel time and expense for providers and patients, telehealth can improve the chances that people will receive preventive care and better management of chronic conditions. Telehealth can facilitate specialist consultations, whether the provider is across the state or across the world.

Examples of Telehealth

  • Having “e-visits” or face-to-face doctor’s appointments using FaceTime, Skype or other audiovisual method.
  • A provider sending test results to a specialist and later consulting by phone/email.
  • A doctor treating a child in a small regional clinic consulting with a pediatric specialist at a large hospital using live video so the specialist can see the patient.
  • Providers take continuing education courses online.
  • Patients logging into a patient portal for test results.

Because it can save travel time and expense for providers and patients, telehealth can improve the chances that people will receive preventive care and better management of chronic conditions. Telehealth can facilitate specialist consultations, whether the provider is across the state or across the world.

The terms telehealth and telemedicine are sometimes used interchangeably, however, telehealth refers to a broader scope of remote healthcare services than telemedicine. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) describes telehealth as the use of telecommunications and information technology to provide access to health assessment, diagnosis, intervention, consultation, supervision and information across distance. Telehealth includes provider training, administrative consultations and continuing medical education, as well as clinical services. In contrast, telemedicine refers to remote clinical services. Both can involve the use of phones, FAX machines, email, text messaging, video-conferencing, transmission of still images (like x-rays and MRIs), patient portals, and remote monitoring devices.

Telehealth can be conducted in these ways:

  • Real-time video. A live, two-way conversation between patients and providers, or between providers, using telecommunication technology. Real-time communication may involve a third party, such as a language interpreter or another healthcare provider.
  • Store-and-forward. Sending health history records, such as x-rays or other digital images, photographs or pre-recorded videos to another provider through secure electronic means for evaluation. This can be helpful in locations where specialists aren’t available.
  • Remote patient monitoring (such as heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels). This can help providers track patients while they are at home and can shorten hospital stays or reduce the frequency of office visits.
  • Mobile health (mhealth). Uses apps on smart phones and tablets to promote healthy behavior, for example, by helping people track their exercise and calorie intake.


Can You Have an E-Visit?

Not all practices offer e-visits, yet. With the promise of better access to care without the inconvenience/expense of traveling to an appointment, states and insurance companies are under pressure to define policies governing e-visits and reimbursement.

Practices that do offer e-visits tend to provide them only to established patients for whom follow-up visits do not require a physical exam. There are companies that offer e-visits, usually by phone, for some non-emergency illnesses but these do not allow you to select your practitioner or develop a relationship as you would with a primary care provider. Prescription medications may be available during an e-visit, but that decision is at the discretion of the provider and usually won’t include non-therapeutic drugs or controlled substances.

According to the American Telemedicine Association, there are about 200 telemedicine networks and 3,500 service sites in the U.S., and more than half of all hospitals use some form of telemedicine.

Telehealth is being used effectively for monitoring patients with hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, wound care and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is especially well suited to treat conditions such as allergies and asthma, chronic bronchitis, conjunctivitis, urinary tract infections, rashes, mental illness, prevention and wellness services. Specialists in many fields from dermatology and neurology to ophthalmology and endocrinology practice telehealth. Often they are located in urban areas and consult with rural facilities through the use of various forms of technology that permit face to face consultation with    providers and patients.

Telehealth should not be used for the treatment of any condition where a face-to-face exam is required due to severe symptoms (such as bleeding or chest pain) or when immediate and aggressive treatment is needed. In these cases, patients should see their provider, go to an emergency room or call 911.


Another vehicle of telehealth is the information and support available to you from KnovaSolutions, which provides telephone and email access to a registered nurse and pharmacist. Your KnovaSolutions clinician can provide personalized health information and healthcare decision support for you and your family.

Your nurse and pharmacist are available to talk with you about any health concerns you may have, answer questions about minor and major health conditions, chronic illness, a new diagnosis, or injury. They can provide information about risks and benefits of treatment options, medications, medical tests and procedures. In addition, your nurse can support you with healthy lifestyle goals, including increasing physical activity, improving your diet, stress reduction, improving sleep quality, and anything that impacts your well-being.

KnovaSolutions takes a person-centered approach to care that respects the broader context of your life, work, personal beliefs and values.  Call us at 800/355-0885.

We encourage you to leave a comment or question below and a KnovaSolutions nurse or pharmacist will reply.

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The information contained in this newsletter is for general, educational purposes. It should not be considered a replacement for consultation with your healthcare provider.  If you have concerns about your health, please contact your healthcare provider.


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