Virtual Health and It’s Role In Healthcare

Just about everything is accessible with the internet these days, and healthcare is no different. As a society, we want faster answers and solutions than ever before, and we want to get them with the least amount of resistance and trouble. We all know that healthcare is important, but when it’s a struggle to schedule an immediate doctor’s appointment, make it to an appointment or even find reliable and affordable care, we can often find ourselves coming up short.

Thankfully, virtual health is on the rise. This newer term refers to utilizing digital technology to connect healthcare providers to patients who need care or medical advice. It may include telephone calls, video chats, text conversations, remote vital sign monitoring, and more.

Virtual Health vs. Telehealth

The terms “virtual health” and, the more commonly used, “telehealth” are often used interchangeably, along with a slew of other similar terms all having to do with getting medical care and/or advice virtually or digitally. At NCHS, we prefer using “virtual health” as it’s more forward looking and captures the most current technologies used. Both of these terms refer, at their root, to patients who receive some form of medical care or advice from a professional through the use of technology. It may involve treatment of a chronic condition, addressing a sudden rash or illness that comes up, or going through physical therapy virtually due to the inability to travel. Whatever virtual health entails for the individuals utilizing it, is there the second half of the sentence missing?

Benefits of Virtual Health

There should be no doubt that the benefits of virtual health are vast, particularly in today’s global climate. But beyond minimizing exposure to a quickly spreading virus, virtual health services have been and will continue to be hugely significant in healthcare both now and after the Coronavirus  pandemic is over. NCHS offers virtual health appointments to our patients because we believe they are a pivotal part of healthcare today and we think everyone deserves access to these incredibly beneficial services.

Meets a Big Need

Virtual health truly meets a huge need. So many people don’t get quality care because they simply don’t have the time or resources. It’s not just about having insurance or being able to afford healthcare, but it’s also about physically getting to appointments, having childcare covered during the appointment, and taking the time off work for the travel and the appointment itself. Virtual health eliminates all of those problems. You can set up a  phone call, video chat or other form of a virtual visit with your doctor on your lunch break or you can call them from your kitchen after the kids are in bed. Virtual health services make it as easy as possible for the most people to get quality care.

Just as Thorough & Effective

Think about all the times you went to the doctor’s office only to spend less than 10 minutes with the doctor, even though the entire appointment, travel included, may have taken you an hour or two. You don’t need a ton of one-on-one time with a doctor in most cases, and doctors are more than capable of being just as thorough on the phone or on a video call as they could be in person. Their expertise is far-reaching, also, meaning that they don’t always have to physically see you to diagnose things. And if they feel like they do need to see you, they can either set up a video call or have you come in for an appointment. Either way, pictures and symptoms are often all that is needed for a doctor to diagnose and treat something, so in most cases, virtual health care is just as thorough and effective as in-office visits.

More Affordable

Doctors’ visits can be expensive, even if you have good health insurance or have a very affordable care plan. But, in most scenarios,virtual visits are even more affordable than the best in-office options. Whether you use your normal doctor, a nearby clinic, or an online virtual health company, your “appointments” are typically very affordable.. Think about how much time doctors will save by simply picking up the phone for jumping on a video chat for their next appointment—this gives them the ability to reduce prices while still providing exceptional care to each individual they “meet” with.

Less Time Consuming

As mentioned briefly above, virtual visits are far less time-consuming. You don’t need to schedule them out weeks or months in advance. This might be the case if you wake up with an illness one day, you suddenly come down with a rash, or you are concerned about some pain you’re feeling. You don’t have to take off work, arrange childcare, drive to the office, sit in a waiting room, and then drive back home. You simply pick up the phone or hop on your tablet or computer, and when you’re done speaking with the doctor, you move on with your day.

More Access to Care & Specialists

One of the best benefits of virtual health that will eclipse the current healthcare situation is the additional access to care and specialists. More people will get quality healthcare with telemedicine because it’s easier and more accessible—all you need is a phone, tablet or computer. And with NCHS’s guidance, more people will have access to additional doctors and specialists that they may not have been able to see prior to utilizing virtual health services. Let’s say that after seeing an NCHS physician for a chronic disease you’re facing, she believes it would be beneficial to receive a second opinion from a specialist in New York or some other distant city.. So what happens if after  receiving this second opinion, you know you want to see this doctor, but you can’t justify multiple trips to see him or her? Enter virtual health. You set up phone calls and video chats, and you’ve just gotten yourself a new doctor and will have your appointments all without leaving your couch.

How the Shift to Virtual Health Has Already Begun

Several years ago, many doctors’ offices and hospitals began putting patients’ medical records online, and then they began offering patient portal services where individuals could access records, schedule appointments, and view follow-up notes from visits with their doctors. The shift is increasing to a more tech-based approach rather than the technology being a supplement to healthcare. In fact, in 2014, about half of all hospitals already had a telemedicine program, and that number has certainly grown since. Around three-quarters of the US population is comfortable with telehealth services and is more concerned about access to quality care than face-to-face interactions with their doctors. Nowadays, there are even entire companies, websites, and digital applications devoted wholly to virtual health, and the trend is steadily rising upward for telehealth services to replace a wide variety of in-office visits and healthcare needs.

In light of the current happenings with COVID-19, individuals are being encouraged not to go to the hospital, emergency room, urgent care, or doctors’ offices without calling ahead and confirming that it’s absolutely necessary. A few months ago, it wasn’t an issue to run in to be seen  for a sinus infection, itchy allergic reaction, or a sore throat . The doctor would see you, give you a treatment plan, and you’d be on your way. But now, with so much concern over spreading the coronavirus, doctors are urging patients to call with their concerns and let the doctor advise them on their next steps. Oftentimes, this involves a doctor asking about symptoms, maybe requesting a picture or video chat, if needed, and prescribing a treatment plan remotely. This shift was already in place, and as several people are being forced to utilize these types of services now, it only makes sense that many will see the extreme benefits and continue using virtual health services in the future.

NCHS is always at the forefront of advancing and innovative technology to best serve our communities. As such, we can offer virtual health services for those who need it. We can schedule telephone calls or video chats at your convenience and offer our expertise that way, and if we do believe you should come in, we will schedule your visit at the safest time possible. Thankfully, the majority of appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic can be handled with our virtual health services, so if you would like to set one up, contact us today at NCHS.