Ask the expert: The facts about telehealth with Dr. Michael Genord
Getting the right care at the right time is more essential than ever. And because medical professionals are going above and beyond to keep you safe, it’s also more electronic.
Some insurers have always offered 24/7 telehealth options. But now, more medical professionals – including local doctors – are offering their own virtual visits. That means you might be able to see your primary care doctor or specialist from a computer, phone or tablet. People who have tried telehealth appreciate its convenience.
Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about telehealth:
Q. How do I use telehealth?
A. Call your doctor and ask for a virtual visit. Depending on the care you need, your doctor will determine if telehealth is right for you or if you need an in-person visit. If telehealth is an option, they will set an appointment time, and a staff member will give you directions on how to access your virtual visit over the phone or using a computer.
Q. What can telehealth be used for?
A. Each doctor will make the determination on which types of care can be handled through telehealth. But as a general rule, telehealth can be used for a variety of services, including:
- Annual wellness visits/routine preventive visits
- Follow-up visits
- Consults with specialists
- Sharing test results
- Managing medication/requesting prescription refills
- Managing chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, COPD, heart failure, hyperlipidemia and hypertension
- Treating cold, allergy and flu symptoms like fever, cough and sore throat
- Treating migraines or other headaches
- Addressing minor injuries like sprains, strains and burns
- Assessing rashes or other skin problems
- Addressing urinary tract pain
- Lifestyle and nutrition counseling
- Smoking cessation counseling
- Mental health concerns
- New parent and baby concerns
You may also want to use telehealth if you have COVID-19 symptoms, which will allow a doctor to assess you more safely.
Q. What can telehealth NOT be used for?
A. If you think your condition needs an in-person visit, be sure to let your doctor know. You should be seen in person for urgent conditions that include:
- Chest pains
- Shortness of breath
- Cardiac or stroke symptoms
- Excessive bleeding
- Serious injuries
- Sensitive procedures like gynecological issues
- Abdominal pain
- Eye injuries or eye pain
For significant health concerns, you should go to urgent care or the emergency room.
Q. Why should I use telehealth?
A. Telehealth is convenient because it puts you in touch with top doctors from the comfort of your own home. And it often offers more flexible appointment options. In addition to virtual care offered by your primary care physician, some insurers like HAP provide access to hundreds of doctors nationally who are available 24/7 for telehealth visits.
Most importantly, telehealth is a safe option that lowers your risk of coming in contact with contagious conditions like COVID-19 or the flu.
As you’re choosing your health plan this year, look for a plan that offers virtual care with no member cost-sharing. That means you will not be charged any copay, coinsurance or deductible for using telehealth.
In this digital age, telehealth is an innovative benefit for those who appreciate the safety and convenience of accessing health care from home. However, keep in mind that some services do need to be conducted in person. Patients should feel safe knowing that medical professionals follow strict handwashing and social distancing protocols and make sure their exam and waiting rooms are cleaned thoroughly. With this in mind, you should feel safe going to your doctor’s office when you need care.
ABOUT THE EXPERT
Dr. Michael Genord is president and CEO of Health Alliance Plan (HAP) and executive vice president of Henry Ford Health System. He has held leadership positions throughout his career and managed a private medical practice for 17 years