Telehealth: Advantages and Considerations

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Telehealth, sometimes called virtual care, allows for patients to receive care through audio or video call with their health care provider from the comfort of their own home or other safe space. As impressive as it sounds, it’s important to be educated on not only the powers of telehealth, but some of the times it might not be the best choice for you.

The Advantages

One of the most relevant advantages that telehealth offers is it’s minimization of exposure to things like COVID-19 and the flu. Nobody likes to sit in a waiting room full of stuffy noses and coughs, especially during a continued pandemic. This can be especially important for people who may be at higher risk of illness.

Aside from reducing the spread of illnesses, telehealth helps make it easier to receive the care someone needs. Based on our recent 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. People who have full time jobs, no stable form of transportation, are primary caretakers of children, or who are in school full time can use telehealth services from wherever they are. Students do not need to miss school to travel to a clinic. Not to mention the fact that telehealth can connect you with, for example, a specialist from the other side of the world to help you with your consultations.

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 needs 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% had barriers to telehealth based on access to technology . 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 visits. Although patients can expect confidentiality in the walls of a doctor’s office, not everybody can say the same in their own homes. People who, for example, share a room or are monitored by parents or guardians may have a difficult time seeking counseling, STI treatment, birth control, 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. You can also do your telehealth appointment from any safe space where you feel comfortable.

Why Telehealth?

Telehealth is a relatively new technology that was made more 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 many people. Thanks to the expansion of health insurance coverages to cover telehealth appointments, 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. If you are interested in telehealth or other sexual and reproductive health services, find a clinic near you!