There are a number of potential obstacles to maintaining good health care practices. Financial troubles, unpleasant symptoms, limited appointment times and more can all get in the way of receiving important medical services. Such common life issues are just one of the reasons the CDC said approximately didn’t visit with a healthcare provider in 2019. Thankfully, the percentage of adults who don’t regularly meet with healthcare providers has lowered recently, and the advancements in telehealth services have helped with that.

Telehealth is the process of attending an online doctor’s visit. It is typically done on the provider’s website, mobile app or through another platform that the provider uses. Telehealth services aren’t only used by primary care doctors. Other providers, like dentists and specialty doctors, have extended telehealth services to their patients, as well. Read on to learn about the benefits of telehealth services and tips on how to prepare for an online doctor’s visit.

Telehealth isn't just for primary care; you can also see specialists.

What is telehealth?

As technology advances, so do the options of healthcare services. Telehealth includes services such as telemedicine. However, there are differences between the two types of services.

Telehealth is the broader of the two terms. It is a type of virtual appointment that can be done via live video chat or over the telephone. Telehealth appointments can cover a broad range of services, like a basic check-up or an occupational therapy session. Telemedicine is a particular type of telehealth service. It specifically focuses on clinical services, such as diagnosing a rash, providing a treatment plan for a persistent cough or prescribing medication to relieve symptoms.

Several different types of healthcare providers use telehealth services. Some healthcare sectors that offer this option to patients are:

  • Radiology
  • Psychiatry
  • Internal medicine
  • Neurology
  • Family medicine
  • Dermatology
  • Pediatrics
  • Emergency medicine
  • Geriatrics
  • Allergy and immunology
  • Occupational medicine
  • Urology

Telehealth can be helpful for busy parents or caretakers.

Benefits of telehealth services

Using technology to deliver healthcare has many benefits. Some of the most common benefits of telehealth services include:

  • Convenience – no need to travel to the appointment or get a babysitter
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Immediate appointment availability
  • Access to specialists who might not be in the area
  • Less exposure to viruses and bacteria
  • Less time spent in waiting rooms
  • On average, visits result in lower-cost bills than in-person appointments

How to access telehealth services

Telehealth services are typically accessed through the provider’s website, a mobile app or a third-party portal that the provider uses. After scheduling a telehealth appointment, the healthcare provider should give specific instructions on how to access your appointment. Some popular third-party portals that providers use for telehealth appointments include ZocDoc, MyChart, Medici and eVisit. These platforms also often provide databases of providers in different fields and their availability for telehealth appointments.

Once you secure your telehealth appointment, it’s important to make sure you have everything you need for it. Contact the provider via phone or email if you have not received instructions on accessing your appointment or have any questions. You should also test the platform that will be used to see if there’s anything else you need to do. Common initial steps include: creating an account, completing digital forms required by the provider and adjusting volume and camera settings. A strong and steady internet connection is also important when accessing telehealth services. Reliable internet strength and speed can help you hear and see clearly during a telehealth appointment.

Be sure to have a list of questions ready before your telehealth appointment.

What to know before your online doctor’s visit

Online doctor’s visits can offer a level of comfort and convenience to patients. However, it might not be the best option in every instance. Some specialists might offer a virtual consultation but may ask you to visit in-person for a follow-up appointment. Telehealth services also shouldn’t be used in cases of emergency.

You should also understand how to protect your private information online before your online doctor’s visit. Make sure you set a strong password if signing up for an account on the platform. Don’t use the same login information that you use for other accounts. Don’t share your password with others or save your login information on a device that others use.

Final thoughts

The advancements in telehealth services have made healthcare options available to more people — people who live in rural areas, people who can’t afford in-person visits and people who don’t have the time to travel to a healthcare provider. These services use technological innovations, like the telephone and video chat, to make healthcare more accessible. All you need to do to use telehealth services are:

  • Check with your healthcare provider to see if they offer telehealth services
  • If they don’t offer telehealth services, or if you don’t have a specific provider in mind, search for one on a telehealth platform
  • Take time to understand the instructions on how to access your online doctor’s visit
  • Make sure you have a strong and steady internet connection

If you are concerned about the strength, speed or reliability of your internet connection, you should secure more reliable service before participating in telehealth appointments. CenturyLink Fiber Internet service offers our fastest speeds available and reliable connections to help you access the telehealth services you need.