David Rodeck

4 Ways Telemedicine Is Improving Access to Care

Thanks to improvements in telemedicine technology, it’s easier than ever for patients to receive medical advice without going to the hospital or doctor’s office. Not only does this help cut costs and make health care more convenient, it’s also providing health care access for patients who might not have been able to see a doctor in the past.

Here are four ways Americans are receiving better care thanks to telemedicine benefits.

1. Rural Areas

In rural areas, the closest hospital or doctor could be hours away. According to CNN, nearly 16 percent of Americans live 30 miles or more from a hospital. Before telemedicine, if someone in these remote areas needed care, that usually meant taking time off work, a long drive and maybe even an overnight stay. It also meant a long delay before they received medical attention — especially if the inconvenience made them put off making the trip.

Today, people in rural areas can speak with a medical provider almost immediately. This is particularly helpful when the patient isn’t sure whether they really need care or not, since they can talk to a doctor about whether they should drive to the hospital, rather than trying to use their own best judgment.

2. Specialists

Even people who live close to a hospital can have trouble getting the care they need. Hospitals don’t always have every type of medical specialist or lab available. If a patient has a relatively uncommon condition needing specialty treatment, that could also mean a long trip to another hospital.

Now people can easily reach out to a specialist via telemedicine. Your employees potentially have access to providers across the country and aren’t limited to what’s available in their local area. And if they want a second opinion from another specialist, it’s much easier to contact one. They can also schedule appointments more quickly, as they won’t be waiting on the one local specialist, who might have limited availability.

3. Comfort and Privacy

With telemedicine, it’s easier for patients to maintain their privacy. Someone might be uncomfortable seeing the local town doctor, for instance, because they know each other personally. It can also help people who are concerned about discrimination. For example, NPR reports that 22 percent of transgender people have skipped medical care because they fear discrimination. With telemedicine benefits, patients can be more comfortable reaching out to providers, at the same time making sure the discussion stays private.

4. Mental Health

Issues of comfort and privacy, as well as access to specialists, play into mental health care, too — and this is another area where telemedicine can provide a benefit. Whether because of the stigma around mental health issues, financial insecurity or lack of knowledge, most people don’t seek treatment for depression. We’ve all heard of telephone hotlines, but these days your employees can meet over video with their choice of trained mental health professional.

In addition to connecting patients with doctors, services like Anthem’s LiveHealth Online provide affordable, hassle-free access to psychologists and psychiatrists who can help your employees manage a range of mental health issues, from stress and relationship conflict to anxiety and depression. With support only a few clicks away, your employees may be more likely take that crucial first step.

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At the end of the day, if your employees don’t have convenient health care access, they may delay getting help or skip treatment altogether. This increases the chance that they will develop a more serious and expensive health problem later. Find out what telemedicine options your insurance plan offers and educate your employees on how to take advantage of them.

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