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Best practice guide

Telehealth for direct-to-consumer care

Introduction to direct-to-consumer telehealth

Accessing health care services through telehealth became more common and widely accepted by multiple patients following the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The temporary waivers authorized during the public health emergency included changes in policies on telehealth reimbursement under Medicare. As a result, a wide range of health care professionals now offer a range of services through telemedicine including live video appointments.

Telehealth is not simply one form of health care. It includes a range of services that patients receive virtually from their home or another preferred location instead of in a health care setting. Through telehealth, a patient can virtually consult with a health care provider without having to travel to the provider’s office. This type of “at home” telehealth is sometimes called direct-to-patient, direct-to-consumer, or on-demand care and enables patients to obtain medical advice and treatment on their own technology devices and at a time that is convenient for them. Direct-to-consumer telehealth can be conducted synchronously or asynchronously, depending on the purpose of the appointment and the patient’s needs.

Types of direct-to-consumer telehealth

Synchronous telehealth happens in live, real-time settings where the patient interacts with a provider, usually via phone or video.

Asynchronous telehealth involves the transmission of messages, text, images, or other materials that are sent and received at different times.

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