According to americantelemed.org, there are about 200 telemedicine networks in the U.S. right now, and over half of the hospitals in our country currently use some form of telemedicine. Still, many people have either never heard of telehealth or are reluctant to take advantage of the benefits.
Here are seven of the most common myths surrounding telehealth:
Myth #1: Telehealth is too new
Although telemedicine has become increasingly popular in recent years, it has actually been successfully used since the 1960s. In fact, it was proposed in “Science and Invention” Magazine in the 1920s! In practice, doctors have been able to check pacemakers over the phone, read MRIs and other radiology scans from distant locales and provide the highest level of care for their patients in ICU from remote locations.
Ochsner started using telehealth technology in the late 1990s for reading echocardiograms in children. We’ve been caring for patients through our telestroke program since 2009, teleICU since 2012, telepsychiatry since 2016 and a multitude of specialty care services have come online along the way. Now, our doctors see over 200,000 patients at more than 40 facilities virtually every year through CareConnect 360, our telehealth network. We provide cardiac care, high-risk women’s services and advanced interpretation services – capabilities other hospitals may not have locally. InnovationOchsner (iO) also offers digital medicine programs for monitoring hypertension (high blood pressure), heart failure and pregnancy.
More and more patients are now having appointments face-to-face with a doctor through the Ochsner Anywhere Care App. There are more uses for telemedicine than ever before, but it’s certainly not brand new.
Myth #2: Telehealth is only for people who don’t live near a hospital
Telehealth is ideal for those without convenient access to medical care, but that’s just one of the advantages. For instance, Ochsner Anywhere Care offers virtual visits over your smartphone, tablet or computer 24/7, 365 days a year. Even if you live in the city, you’d be hard-pressed to find access to a doctor who’ll treat a common or chronic condition in the middle of the night outside an emergency room or urgent care facility.
With Anywhere Care, you don’t have to miss work for a doctor’s appointment or get out of bed and sit in a waiting room. It’s also great if you need a second opinion, are on vacation and need a prescription refilled or are just too busy to get to the doctor.
Myth #3: Telehealth is just about urgent care
While it’s true telehealth services can be a good alternative to visiting an urgent care or the ER, that’s not the only benefit. In a recent Harris Poll, 60% of those surveyed said they’d like to see a doctor online for help managing their chronic conditions. This makes a lot of sense since people with chronic conditions typically know exactly what’s going on and when their needs can be handled face-to-face with a doctor over the phone.
Myth #4: Doctors can’t examine what they need to know over the phone
At one time, telehealth was often just a phone call with a healthcare provider. As technology has evolved, however, so has the ability to offer face-to-face video visits with experts, even with add-on peripheral tools to provide more data as needed. Telehealth today allows for a much more personal interaction between doctor and patient. In times when a more thorough examination is required, you will be referred to the emergency room, urgent care or a specialist.
Myth #5: Telehealth costs too much
Even with insurance, CNN Money says the average cost of an emergency room visit rose to $1,917 in 2016. And according to a study by the Annals of Internal Medicine, the average cost of a common urgent care visit was $155. Ochsner Anywhere Care is just $49 a visit. While insurance is not accepted, there are no cost surprises – no hidden or monthly fees. And Ochsner is partnering with some employers and payors to get those visit costs to $0 for their workers.
Myth #6: Telehealth devalues the doctor and patient relationship
Not true! Telehealth services aren’t supposed to replace visits to your doctor – they are meant to supplement your regular check-ups. These services are perfect for times when you can’t get an appointment with your primary care doctor or when your problem doesn’t warrant a trip to the emergency room.
Myth #7: Telehealth isn’t secure
Cyber security is a big topic these days, and when it comes to your private medical information, it’s natural to wonder if your information might be compromised. We want you to know that telehealth is a safe and secure way to send medical information. We take your privacy seriously at Ochsner and do all we can to protect it.