All the benefits of telehealth during a pandemic

A woman on her phone.
A woman on her phone. (Pexels/stock image)

With demand for health care at an all-time high, telehealth has become a vital lifeline to communicate with patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are all becoming more familiar with the term “telehealth,” which often just means a phone call or video conference between a patient and his or her health care provider.

Federal and state agencies have encouraged the use of telehealth services for people to maintain social distancing practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UT Physicians, a practice with clinics across Greater Houston, has teamed up with InTouch Health for its virtual services, providing a platform for patients to receive care from a UT Physicians provider via phone or computer.

It’s personalized, convenient, one-on-one online care, and most importantly, it’s designed to meet the needs of patients, wherever they are.

Telehealth puts the patient in the driver’s seat.

To prepare for your virtual visit, you’ll want to find a quiet place with adequate lighting for your conversation with your doctor.

Make a list of your medications, prescriptions and over-the-counter meds, including supplements and vitamins.

If you can, take and note your vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and weight in advance – ideally recorded within the past 24 hours.

Write down all your questions and keep a pen and paper handy to take notes from the doctor.

This preparation is very similar to the conversation you typically have with your nurse practitioner or doctor at the start of all your in-person visits -- and it’s vital to the doctor’s diagnosis and treatment.

Telehealth often leads to faster service.

Telehealth eliminates the commute to the doctor’s office and often times, reduces the wait in the “virtual lobby.”

Doctors and hospitals benefit, too.

Telehealth allows doctors and clinic staff to have the flexibility to work from home, and helps keep their families safe, as well as yours.

Nurses and doctors become more accessible to their patients. It truly maximizes the health care workforce.

The entire system reduces unnecessary visits to the ER, helps people follow the rules of social distancing, allows quarantined patients to receive care, and is critical for triage in a pandemic situation.

So, why else is telehealth more important than ever right now?

For now, it’s contributing to flattening the curve and slowing down the spread of the virus.

By providing this simple and efficient option, doctors and patients are helping contain the transmission of COVID-19, as well as shielding patients who fall into the high-risk categories.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended the use of alternative care.

Nearly 80% of patients experiencing mild symptoms can be managed at home through virtual visits.

By freeing up a hospital’s staff and facilities, this all comes down to safety -- and efficiency in a time of great need.

“Virtual care is the right way for us to interact in this moment," said Dr. Matthew Harting, a pediatric surgeon with UT Physicians.

Telehealth is a vital resource in times of a pandemic, and it’s a game changer in how health care is provided. It’s here to stay.

“This public health crisis is clearly a turning point for virtual health,” said Sahar M. Qashqai, executive director of Healthcare Transformation Initiatives at UT Physicians. “UT Physicians health care providers are extremely dedicated to ensuring our patients receive exceptional care."

For more information on the UT Physicians telehealth service, click or tap here.