Many of the doctors’ offices are closed for all non-emergency care amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, some of the doctors’ offices have been indefinitely closed due to the reduced volume of patients. Half of the adult population have stated that they or someone in their families have either postponed or avoided medical care after the outbreak of the corona virus. As a result, doctors have become less accessible in person still, many people need healthcare services. Such people can find respite through telemedicine. Telemedicine that was created to treat remote location patients has today become a tool for convenient medical care.
Telemedicine involves the use of various technologies like the internet, wireless & terrestrial communications, video conferencing, streaming media, and other digital channels along with other telecommunication technologies to facilitate long-distance healthcare access for patients and to improve healthcare quality. The main objective behind the telemedicine facility is to establish a connection between doctors and their patients without having face-to-face contact. This fairly latest digital health discipline has made life easier for both healthcare providers as well as patients. Telemedicine is a part of healthcare growing at an epic pace. As per the latest data, the telemedicine market is anticipated to grow and expected to hit over $130 billion by 2025.
All the U.S. citizens having health insurance are provided a free nurse hot-line facility by their insurance companies that are generally open 24/7. Members of the health insurance plans are free to speak with a nurse at their preferred time from their place. At this time of the pandemic, there is quite a possibility that people have queries or doubts regarding their health and they are not sure whether they need to see a physician or not. In such circumstances, people can call a free phone hot-lines, as it can effectively solve their situation. Nurses handling these lines as veteran medical professionals advise people on their healthcare needs and can suggest whether they can stay at home or need to immediately visit a doctor. These nurses will advise people about additional symptoms that they need to lookout for and about all the essential steps that people need to take care of while staying at home. 24/7 nurse hot-lines are ideal if people have queries regarding the following:
- Medications and their side effects
- The best time to visit a doctor
- Ongoing symptoms
- Reliable self-care home treatments
- Time to visit an emergency room
- Information about healthcare providers available in their area who are in-network for them
Many health insurance companies are waiving out-of-pocket costs for all in-network primary care visits, irrespective of the fact that healthcare is received in-office or via telehealth services. This is being done because of the outbreak of the corona virus. Some of the health insurance companies are also removing all cost-sharing for all telemedicine services such as virtual visits with primary care providers and specialists. Some of the carriers are even extending the kind of coverages that are offered through telemedicine. This means that people will now have coverage for telehealth services for health issues which, they may not have had before, such as speech pathology and mental health care.
The people should check with their health plan carrier for availing details on their telemedicine coverages that are offered during the pandemic and that will be offered after the pandemic. The telemedicine coverage will vary from plan to plan, and the benefits of the plan can also change in response to the corona virus outbreak. Thus, it is essential for the people to confirm these benefits with their health insurance carriers so that they are completely aware of the telemedicine benefits and they convey these benefits to their healthcare providers if they call to check on the benefits. Depending upon the kind of telemedicine coverage available with the plan its benefits option will also vary. Telemedicine may also provide the video-visit facility that is carried out with a computer, smart-phone, or other device having both video and Wi-Fi access. The facility of phone appointments is also available with some of the doctors. Some doctors offer healthcare via text-based applications.
Options for the Uninsured
People who don’t have health insurance can also avail different forms of telemedicine that will be available to them at minimal costs. There are some web applications available through which healthcare services are offered at minimal fees. People having health insurance coverage can use these platforms free of cost and people who don’t have health insurance coverage may need to pay as little as $15 to $25 per service.