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Telehealth vs. In-Person Care: When to Go Online

April 06, 2021
COVID-19 led to a dramatic increase in the use of telemedicine. And while telehealth appointments have decreased in recent months, the flexibility and convenience of healthcare via video means it is here to stay. Telehealth can be convenient and effective, but it is not right for every situation. Find out when and why telehealth could be the right option for you.

After more than a year of Americans living with COVID-19, our daily lives have changed. The pandemic affected how we socialize, how students learn, and even how we seek medical care. Last spring, doctors, hospitals, and mental health professionals saw major increases in the number of virtual visits. While this trend has slowed, the use of virtual appointments is still well above pre-pandemic levels. It is clear that virtual medical appointments, or “telehealth,” is here to stay.

Patients and doctors alike are seeing the value of this new kind of medical care. According to a recent report, more than 20% of all medical visits in 2020 were virtual. Another study found customer satisfaction with telehealth services is on the rise.

And because telemedicine can be done from anywhere with internet access, this new technology also plays a key role in improving access to care. It can be very helpful for those with transportation barriers or problems traveling to regular appointments. In addition, telehealth can help patients in rural areas find the care they need despite distance.

What is telehealth?

Now more than ever, patients are turning to their phones, tablets, and computers for medical appointments. This trend is known as telehealth or telemedicine. With telehealth, you can access qualified medical care 24 hours a day. You can cut down on wait times and avoid the commute to and from your doctor's office.

Anthem members have access to this service through our telemedicine partner, LiveHealth Online. Members can enroll for free at livehealthonline.com or on the mobile app. With LiveHealth Online, you can access:

  • Immediate doctor visits through live video
  • Your choice of U.S. board-certified doctors
  • Help at a cost of only $49 per visit, subject to deductible and coinsurance
  • Private, secure, and convenient online visits.

Types of telemedicine and its benefits

Patients and doctors use telemedicine in a variety of ways. Some of the most common applications include:

  • Virtual visits
  • Chat-based interactions
  • Remote patient monitoring

These tools benefit users in a number of ways. They improve access to healthcare services, reduce costs, and can result in faster, more efficient medical visits.

When to use telemedicine

For emergency situations, you should always dial 911 or seek immediate, in-person medical treatment. But for other health concerns, you can use telehealth from the comfort of your own home. Some of the most common uses include:

  • Cold and flu symptoms such as a cough, fever, and headaches
  • Allergies
  • Sinus infections
  • Monitoring certain ongoing issues
  • Family health questions

Telemedicine is becoming more common for post-surgical follow-ups and for geriatric or disabled patients. It is also popular with mental health professionals and specialists who treat conditions like diabetes or asthma.

When to seek in-person care

Telehealth can be a convenient and affordable option, but it is not right for every situation. Not all types of medical visits are possible to do remotely. Imaging tests, blood work, and other visits that call for a more hands-on approach still require a trip to your doctor’s office. In addition, some conditions, such as skin irritation or rashes, might need a closer look than computer or phone cameras can clearly show.

When telemedicine is not an option, Anthem members can use the Find Care tool to find a doctor, pharmacy, hospital, or urgent care location. They can also receive immediate advice from a registered nurse or find care while traveling.

With more patients and doctors turning to telehealth, it will continue to play an important role even after the pandemic. Whether you are seeking care in person or online, every patient and medical situation is unique. You should consult with your doctor to ensure you receive the right care for you.