Telehealth- Advantages and Considerations

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By YAB Intern Saul

As the world attempts to find a new normal amidst a global health crisis, one impact of

COVID-19 may be here for good. The pandemic ushered in a new and innovative form of health care that utilizes technology and efficiency to create a new path to health care and minimize the risks associated with in-person visits during the pandemic.

Telehealth, sometimes called virtual care, allows patients to receive care through an audio-only or video call with their health care provider from their own home or other place of their choice, like a friend’s house.

The Advantages

The most relevant advantage that telehealth offers is it’s minimization of exposure to illness, especially during  COVID-19. Nobody likes to sit in a waiting room full of stuffy noses and coughs, especially during a pandemic. Based on our survey of California teens last year, over 50% of respondents did not want to go to a clinic during the pandemic. (You can take our new teens and telehealth survey here!)

Aside from reducing the spread of illnesses, telehealth helps remove certain barriers to receiving comprehensive care. Based on our survey, almost 60% of respondents felt that using telehealth would be easier than going to a clinic. For example, remote doctor visits require no form of transportation, less or no requested time off work or school, and no need for child care. Students do not need to miss school to travel to a clinic. Not to mention the fact that telehealth can connect you with a specialist outside of your area.

You can also get services like birth control counseling, STI screening, and other health information without having to worry about running into someone you know at or on your way to the clinic and like almost 60% of teens that took our last survey, you might find a telehealth visit less intimidating that going to an in-person appointment.

The Considerations

Telehealth is not a universal tool, nor is it the be all and end all of medicine. In person visits are necessary for many reasons, such as blood work, imaging, and conditions that may require additional and hands-on attending. This is especially true for things like birth control methods that have to be inserted by a doctor such as an IUD or implant. Someone may also need to visit a clinic for STI testing or treatment.

Another hurdle to climb for some individuals is telehealth’s need for stable internet and devices with audio and/or video capabilities. A study of 1,766 adults showed that 45% declared access to technology a barrier to telehealth. This rings true for rural areas the most, which have the least access to high speed broadband connectivity compared to urban and suburban areas.

The nature of telehealth in itself can be an obstacle for some, especially those with no private spaces for their digital consultations. Although patients can expect confidentiality in the walls of a doctor’s office, not everybody can say the same in their own homes. Individuals who, for example, share a room or are monitored by parents may have a difficult time seeking counseling, STI treatment, birth control management, or sexual and reproductive health advice. Based on our survey, almost half of teens did not have a quiet, private space for a telehealth visit. If this is the case for you, you can make sure to let your doctor know so they can ask more yes/no questions or find ways to take a walk or go to your car during your telehealth visit.

Why Telehealth?

Telehealth is a relatively new service, only now widespread due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it’s full capabilities are still being explored, it remains a viable and more favorable option for a growing number of people. Thanks to the expansion of health insurance coverage to make telehealth appointments free and covered, and the discovery of new monitoring technology to help chronic and long term patients receive care remotely, providers are making strides to ensure that telehealth not only accommodates more patients, but also transforms the way we think about health care. Learn more about telehealth on TeenSource.

If you are interested in telehealth or other sexual and reproductive health services, find a clinic near you!

Have you had a telehealth visit? If not, are you interested in telehealth? Either way, we want to hear from you! Take our survey here!