Frequently Asked Questions

As a patient, how can I access telehealth services?

Access to telehealth services is rapidly increasing across the country. If you’re interested in telehealth, call your provider and ask whether they offer telehealth services. For providers that don’t have telehealth capabilities, there are myriad resource centers that can help them get started. Visit our Get Started page to learn more.

How can telehealth impact a community?

Telehealth can help improve the perception of the levels of quality care available in the community, which is attractive to people who are considering a move to the area.

What is Telehealth all about?

Telehealth is the delivery of health services using technology in order to improve access to quality healthcare in rural and urban communities across the nation. It allows patients to access specialists and doctors they might not otherwise be able to within the comfort of their local community or sometimes even their home. Telehealth can also help minimize healthcare costs while reducing patient travel time and time away from work and family. Ultimately, telehealth can minimize the complication of disease and even save lives through more proactive screening and early diagnosis for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases.

What is the difference between telehealth and telemedicine?

Telehealth is typically used as a broader term to describe remote healthcare education and administration and wellness consults that transcend clinical services, whereas telemedicine more narrowly refers to remote clinical services. While it’s a subtle nuance, it’s very similar to the difference between health and medicine in the common vernacular.

Could I seek a telemedicine consult for an ear infection, or a cold?

Theoretically, you could use telemedicine for any health concern, because a telemedicine consult is designed to be just like a regular doctor’s appointment. However, most often, telemedicine is used when a patient needs access to specialized services not offered by his or her home provider. On a broader scale, telehealth can be used for skin cancer screenings, mental health evaluations, orthopedic consults, management of chronic diseases and a wide range of other medical services.

How does telehealth work?

A patient can have a telemedicine consultation at a local healthcare facility that offers telehealth services. There, the patient is connected to a specialist who is in a separate location via video. A nurse is often on hand with the patient to conduct physical exam tasks (such as taking vital signs), as requested by the specialist on the other side of the video screen. Cameras and other monitoring tools allow the specialist to see on screen exactly what the nurse is seeing in person. For example, during a dermatological exam, the specialist is able to zoom in and polarize a view of the skin concern. Aside from the technology, sessions are treated like in-person appointments.

Are there any studies that illustrate the clinical impact of telehealth, in terms of improving patient outcomes?

There are several studies that demonstrate the impact of telehealth. Some of them evaluate the impact of telehealth on lowering healthcare costs while others look at the business case for telehealth. In terms of the clinical impact of telehealth, there are many reports that highlight the clinical benefits of increased access to care, which telehealth can provide.

Will telehealth someday eliminate the need to visit a doctor’s office?

While technology will continue to enhance the delivery of healthcare as we know it, it will likely never eliminate the need for in-person interaction in healthcare. Just like email changed the way businesses communicate, telehealth is changing our definition of the “typical” office visit. The results will be improved access to care, lower cost of delivery and, ultimately, improved patient outcomes.

Are telemedicine consults covered by insurance?

In many cases, telehealth services are covered by insurance. Your provider can offer information regarding reimbursement options available to you. For a comprehensive overview of telehealth reimbursement, visit www.CTEL.org. In circumstances where telehealth isn’t covered by insurance, private pay is an option for patients who want to realize the benefits of telehealth, including saving on travel expenses they would normally spend to see a specialist.