telehealthA relatively new health care option that is changing the way patients interact with their doctors and nurses is telehealth. Telehealth is the method of providing healthcare services from a different location than where the patient is through the use of technology. Telehealth has provided patients with a sense of control over their own health care, resulting from easier access to their medical documents and doctors/nurses from home. What common forms does this take, what are the perceived pros and cons of this trending healthcare service?

There are three main forms of telehealth: live video conference, store-and-forward, and remote patient monitoring. Live video conferencing includes such circumstances as a nurse walking patients through pre-op preparation or examining a rash. Store-and-forward occurs in instances where a patient takes a photo of a mole and sends it to his/her doctor, and remote patient monitoring is when certain devices measure and wirelessly transmit such information as blood pressure and heart rate.

The Pros

Telehealth has enabled many patients who experience chronic conditions to replace the frequent in-person visits with remote patient monitoring, allowing for more convenient contact between patient and nurse. Telehealth has significantly increased access to healthcare services for patients living in more rural areas, where those in need of healthcare services usually must travel hundreds of miles to receive treatment. Telehealth is also resulting in personal savings to patients. With no travel time required and no need to wait in a doctor’s office, patients are able to save what would otherwise be wasted time. Moreover, telehealth means patients can avoid urgent care or emergency room visits, leading to cost savings for patients.

The Cons

Despite the many conveniences of telehealth, some visits just need to be in person. Doctors and nurses are not able to feel a patient’s stomach or hear the heart or lungs, lacking access to common diagnostic tactics. This detractor may be alleviated by certain telehealth equipment available, such as blood pressure cuffs, but if a patient lacks access to such equipment, then an in-person visit may be necessary. Given this relatively new trend in telehealth, insurance coverage for such services is still a work in progress. In response to COVID -19, the Illinois General Assembly temporarily lifted barriers to service access via telehealth for commercial health plans and Medicaid. However, unless such an executive order becomes permanent, professionals will lack certainty of the need to continue investing in such technology, and Illinois residents could lose access to telehealth services that have become increasingly popular during the pandemic.

Telehealth is increasing patient access to care through innovative technology. However, doctors and nurses should take care to follow all necessary protocols used for in-person visits to ensure a patient receives adequate treatment in order to avoid any possible patient complaints that could result in fines or risk to your license. If a complaint arises, Williams & Nickl has extensive experience representing doctors and nurses in defense against such complaints and will work to get you through the process.