A wide range of telehealth tools are becoming extremely popular, pushed forward into the spotlight by the emergence of COVID-19. Telehealth is the use of communication technologies such as computers or mobile devices to access health care services remotely.
Telehealth offers many benefits, including making health care accessible to people in isolated communities, those with mobility problems, and those who lack transportation.
It also serves to provide greater access to medical specialists, especially for people in rural areas where specialists are located miles away. Virtual visits with a provider also reduce your exposure to transmittable diseases you may be exposed to when visiting an office or hospital. These visits allow you to see your provider from home, your car, or virtually anywhere as long as you have wi-fi or a good phone signal.
Telehealth visits are used most often by primary care providers, mental health providers, dermatologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists and even for therapy such as speech or physical therapy.
Providers can use telemedicine to decide whether the patient needs treatment in person, to renew or write prescriptions, diagnose certain medical conditions, manage chronic conditions, and make referrals to specialists, among other things.
There are still many situations where an in-person visit is required, especially if your condition requires a physical exam or other testing procedures such as urine samples, blood draws, ultrasounds or other procedures.
Health care portals are also a form of telehealth to keep you connected with your providers and hospitals or clinics. Most offices offer you the chance to sign up on their portal via email. From your portal, you can access your medical documents including test results, procedures results, your treatment protocol and your prescriptions.
Most portals have an option to email your provider with questions and allow you the ability to refill some prescriptions. Check with your provider’s office to see if this option is available to you. At Henry County Medical Center, we provide access to patient information in our patient portals for both HCMC and our medical clinics. We use FollowMyHealth at HCMC and MyHealthRecord at our medical clinics. Both can be accessed at hcmc-tn.org/patient-portal.
HCMC has been the recipient of multiple grants to aid in access to providers via telehealth services. In the next few years, patients in our area will have even greater access to these services.
Currently, Transitions Health in Paris and Eagle Creek Clinic in Buchanan are offering telehealth services to their patients, with more clinics to be added in the future through a platform called MEND. Many insurance companies are now paying for telehealth, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Before scheduling a telehealth visit, check with your insurance company or provider’s office to be sure your insurance will pay for a virtual visit, and always check with your provider to be sure your appointment is appropriate for telehealth.
HCMC will also be offering a Facebook seminar at noon on April 21, with more information about telehealth. Rachel Matlock, network director for the Rural Health Network Development Grant and our telehealth programs, will be giving the presentation.
To view the seminar, watch it on our Facebook page — facebook.com/hcmcparistn. For a list of all our seminars and screenings including our “You’re the One in 2021” seminars, go to our website at www.hcmc-tn.org.
LORI STAMBAUGH is the community nurse educator at Henry County Medical Center. A registered nurse, she has a bachelor’s degree in nursing.