A Look at the Services Virtual Care Offers
Last updated: May 2020
Telehealth or virtual care can be used to access many different types of health services. To get started, talk to your doctor to find out which virtual services are right for you. And be sure to speak with your insurance provider to see what is covered under your plan before any services are performed. There may also be cost-effective options that do not require insurance.
Which chronic health conditions can be treated using telehealth?
Almost every medical field uses telehealth to provide virtual healthcare. In the sections below, you can see examples of how virtual care is used for different health conditions.
Telehealth can be used to improve care in all sorts of cancer settings. Local doctors may share images with out-of-state specialists to diagnose people faster. Many times, doctors will also communicate with faraway specialists about treatment options for a patient. Mobile health makes it easier to contact a doctor to refill prescriptions, show a doctor the results from a medical device in the home, or ask for medical advice. Home monitoring technology can also help support lifestyle changes and wellness activities.1
Skin and eye conditions
Telehealth technology can be used for early diagnosis of conditions like eczema, plaque psoriasis, and macular degeneration. Personal doctors can send images to distant specialists. This makes it easier to decide whether further examination is needed. Plus, it is easier to check in on progress from treatments.2,3
Mobile technology is often used to diagnose stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Telehealth services increase access to education and consultations, especially for people living in rural places with fewer specialist doctors. Mobile technology can also make it possible to have home monitoring of motor function and tremors.4
People with asthma, cystic fibrosis, or other lung conditions can use devices to monitor breathing and lung function. This allows remote specialists to better manage and treat symptoms. It can also help with better self-management of symptoms.5
People with rheumatic conditions like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis can get specialized care through video chat appointments. This is particularly helpful in areas with a shortage of rheumatologists and other specialists. Onsite doctors call remote specialists to complete examinations and discuss treatment options.6
Other chronic conditions
There are other telehealth services that are helpful for people with chronic health conditions. Virtual home care may be especially useful for people with COPD, diabetes, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s disease. A nurse or other approved care provider can regularly visit, can help set up monitoring equipment, and can assist as needed during video calls.7
Pharmacies also deliver services virtually. “Telepharmacy” lets pharmacists answer patient questions about medicines or review all the drugs and supplements a patient is taking. Other services include treatment monitoring, counseling, prescription authorization, and remote dispensing. This has increased access to specialty pharmacy services in rural communities.8
Mental health therapy sessions can take place over live video calls.9 Even physical, speech, and occupational therapy sessions can be done by live video.
What telehealth services are provided for acute health conditions?
Virtual care works well for acute conditions, such as cold or flu symptoms. It also can be used to diagnose or treat other common health issues, including:
- Sinus and upper respiratory infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Pink eye
- Skin rashes such as poison ivy (allergic contact dermatitis)
- Ear pain
Virtual care for these non-urgent conditions may be easier than healthcare provided in-person. And it is generally cheaper than care given at health clinics, urgent care centers, or primary care offices.10,11
Is virtual care covered by insurance?
Insurance providers vary greatly in their coverage of telehealth services. However, they continue to expand coverage. The number of insurance providers that will pay for these services is increasing as well as the range of services that are covered. Contact your provider to get up-to-date information about the services you need.
Here are just a few of the telehealth services covered by Medicare:
- Annual wellness visit
- Medication management
- Diabetes self-management training
- Lung cancer screening eligibility
- Counseling to stop using tobacco or alcohol
- Virtual visit for evaluation and disease management
- Planning for chronic care management
- Annual mental health screening
- Individual or family talk therapy12
Have there been things you have learned along your lupus journey that you wish had been explained to you by a healthcare provider earlier?