The pandemic has changed the way people view healthcare, especially doctor visits for the entire family. The new normal to ensure the health and safety of all persons is through the use of telemedicine, according to Linda Inmon, Extension associate-family and consumer sciences at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.


Telehealth, also called telemedicine, uses technology to provide and receive health care, health information or health education from a distance, she said in a news release June 25.


There are three primary types of telemedicine applications – real-time communication, store-and-forward and remote patient monitoring.


Real-time communication allows patients to connect with providers via video conference, smartphones or a home health monitoring device. Store-and-forward allows transmission of data, images, sound or video from one health care site to another for evaluation (usually physician-to-physician consults.)


Remote patient monitoring involves collecting a patient’s vital signs or other health data while the patient is at home or at another health care site. The data is then transferred to an outside provider for monitoring and response as needed.


“Persons with non-threatening conditions can safely use telemedicine,” Inmon said. “Seasonal allergies, colds, constipation, coughs, vomiting, sore throat, nausea, headaches and pink eye are conditions that can be diagnosed virtually. However, it is always important to check with your physician to see if you need an in-person visit.”


Arkansas is one of the states which has taken the lead on providing telemedicine with some limits, according to the medicare.gov website. Some of the limitations are an established provider-patient relationship, patient location and face-to-face real time communication, she said. Private payers like United Healthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield are also implementing telemedicine based on their policies related to telehealth coverage.


According to Inmon, Medicare in Arkansas offers true payment parity laws for reimbursement rates for in-person and telehealth services.


“Contact your insurance provider to find out what services are provided under telemedicine/telehealth,” she suggests. “Medicare recipients can visit the Medicare website at https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/telehealth for more information.”


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