The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting lives in many ways—from work to school to basic routines like shopping. It also is affecting access to medical professionals, as the need for “social isolation” limits the ability to visit doctors’ offices.
Telehealth is emerging as a critical healthcare tool for many during this crisis.
As the name implies, telehealth or telemedicine is simply the delivery of medical services through phone or video conference and is not limited to a specific platform, app or provider. It provides access to medical care, including mental health support and other services, so people can maintain as close to normal living situations as possible and get the routine care they need.
Many healthcare providers and health plans are encouraging the use of telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic to help people stay home and reduce potential exposure to the virus at hospitals and doctors’ offices. If a doctor determines a telehealth patient needs follow-up care or testing that can only be provided in a medical facility, that care can be scheduled in a manner that best suits the situation.
Many health insurers are recognizing the need to expand or promote telehealth services during the pandemic. Capital BlueCross, one of Pennsylvania’s leading health insurers, recently announced it is temporarily waiving telehealth fees for its members to ensure they can access healthcare services without delay or disruption.
“Many people feel anxious right now, and we want to make sure our members know they can contact and continue to stay in touch with their doctors, psychologists, their children’s behavioral therapists, or their family physicians even for non-COVID-19 related issues,” said Dr. Jennifer Chambers, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Capital BlueCross. “It is important to us to reduce fear and help our members feel confident they have the support they need to get through this time.”
If you haven’t already used a telehealth service, check with your healthcare providers and health insurers to see if they have a preferred telehealth tool. If so, they can provide guidance on how to access the service, which sometimes requires the user to set up a dedicated account that can help track visits and treatments.
COVID-19 certainly has impacted our day-to-day lives, but it doesn’t have to hamper your ability to see your doctor.