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For patients

What is telehealth?

Hearing a lot about telehealth lately? Connecting with your doctor online is a great way to get the health care you need from the comfort and safety of your own home.

What does telehealth mean?

Telehealth — sometimes called telemedicine — lets your doctor provide care for you without an in-person office visit. Telehealth is done primarily online with internet access on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

There are several options for telehealth care:

  • Talk to your doctor live over the phone or video chat.
  • Send and receive messages from your doctor using secure messaging, email, secure messaging, and secure file exchange.
  • Use remote monitoring so your doctor can check on you at home. For example, you might use a device to gather vital signs or other vitals to help your doctor stay informed on your progress.

There are many options to access telehealth if you don’t have a stable internet connection or device connected to the internet. Read more about how to get help with access to telehealth.

Did you know?

Recent federal policy changes about technology use now allow you to receive care using popular video chat programs that you may already be using. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, doctors may use Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, Zoom, or Skype.

Ask your doctor what they use at their office.

What types of care can I get using telehealth?

You can get a variety of specialized care through telehealth. Telehealth is especially helpful to monitor and improve ongoing health issues, such as medication changes or chronic health conditions.

Your doctor will decide whether telehealth is right for your health needs. Ask your doctor’s office what your telehealth options are, especially if you concerned about the health risk of COVID-19.

Common telehealth care options include:

  • Lab test or x-ray results
  • Therapy and online counseling
  • Recurring conditions like migraines or urinary tract infections
  • Skin conditions
  • Prescription management
  • Urgent care issues like colds, coughs, and stomach aches
  • Post-surgical follow-up

Your doctor may also ask you to send information that will help improve your health:

  • Your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, or vital information
  • Images of a wound, or eye or skin condition
  • A diary or document of your symptoms
  • Medical records that may be filed with another doctor, such as X-rays

Doctors can send you information to manage your health at home:

  • Notifications or reminders to do rehabilitation exercises or take medication
  • New suggestions for improving diet, mobility, or stress management
  • Detailed instructions on how to continue your care at home
  • Encouragement to stick with your treatment plan

Benefits of telehealth

Virtual visits are growing in popularity. Though in-person office visits may be necessary in certain cases, there are many benefits of telehealth care.

  • Limited physical contact reduces everyone’s exposure to COVID-19
  • Virtual visits ensure you get health care wherever you are located – at home, at work or even in your car
  • Virtual visits cut down on travel, time off from work, and the need for child care
  • Virtual health care tools can shorten the wait for an appointment
  • Increased access to specialists who are located far away from your hometown

Telehealth is not a perfect fit for everyone or every medical condition. Make sure you discuss any disadvantages or risks with your doctor.

Get tips for finding a doctor who provides telehealth.

Telehealth: What to Know for Your Family (PDF) — from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid

Disclaimer: The reference to named video- and text-based communications software for telehealth is informational and not intended as an endorsement of those services.

Last updated: August 16, 2021

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