Telehealth services are not new features of modern-day medicine. They have been lingering in the background for several years, pushed to the forefront by the coronavirus pandemic.
The outbreak of COVID-19 prompted social distancing measures, which altered the course of everyday life – from how we shop for groceries, how we worship in our religious settings, how we celebrate life’s milestones, and how we visit and consult our physicians and healthcare providers.
You may have been using certain telehealth concepts without realizing it, such as accessing your patient portal to review lab results, and confirming medical appointments or refilling prescriptions via text messaging. However, accessing medical consultations and services using a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone became a widely promoted healthcare tool as the virus began to surge.
As the population was urged to maintain their social distance and stay home to stay safe, patients were encouraged to consult their healthcare providers by phone before coming to the office, and in some cases, routine or non-urgent appointments were conducted via videoconference or phone call. Telehealth visits through phone or video chat have become routine at Milford Regional Physician Group. Both providers and patients find this method of care convenient, accessible and a good alternative during a time when social distancing is key.
One recent example of telehealth was the launching of the Buoy’s COVID-19 symptom checker on the state’s website, Mass.gov. The online tool is a questionnaire to help assess your symptoms and direct you to the most appropriate resource.
In addition to the patient portal and virtual appointments, telehealth services can include remote monitoring, virtual consultations among primary care doctors and specialists and personal health apps, as outlined recently by the Mayo Clinic.
As with most technological advancements, telehealth is constantly evolving. Many of these telehealth services may remain in place, and expand as needed. One thing does remain constant, however – in case of a medical emergency, seek immediate treatment at Milford Regional Medical Center, or the hospital emergency room closest to you.