Telehealth is the delivery of healthcare, patient education, health information, and self-care, via audio or audiovisual means, at a location remote from the patient. Doctors who offer telehealth treatment can perform many of the same services rendered in person. These include prescribing medicine, diagnosing conditions, and offering prognoses. The benefits of telehealth include benefits for patients as well as for physicians.

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What are the Benefits of Telehealth for Patients?

The benefits of telehealth for patients are numerous. By using telehealth services, patients save travel time and transportation costs. Many employees who use telehealth no longer need to formally schedule time off. Instead, they schedule telehealth visits during work breaks, before work, or after work. This flexibility has proven useful during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing employees to miss part of the work day without taking a whole day off. 

Remote care also reduces the possibility that a patient will be infected with a virus from another patient. In turn, patients who use remote care will not be in a position to infect other individuals. Using remote care also eliminates the need for waiting rooms, waiting times, and having to fill out paperwork while waiting for treatment. 

Patients can also use telehealth services without putting their medical privacy at risk. Telehealth providers must still comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule, and its restrictions on use and disclosure of PHI and ePHI

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What are the Benefits of Telehealth for Providers?

The benefits of telehealth are also significant for covered entities. While HIPAA compliance is required for telehealth, a healthcare provider, during the COVID-19 pandemic, will not be subject to fines under the HIPAA Security Rule provided they make good-faith efforts in providing telehealth services. Making good-faith efforts includes using apps that are permitted by the Office for Civil Rights, (OCR), including Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, or Skype.

In addition, the benefits of telehealth are significant for mental health providers. Medicare and many private insurers are now waiving patient copays for outpatient mental health services. This allows for easier access to mental health care, and for providers to establish treatment relationships with new patients.

The benefits of telehealth also accrue to specialists. Patients can consult their primary care physicians, and, if a referral is needed, the primary care physician can refer the patient to a specialist who practices remotely. This allows providers using telehealth to assist patients in ways that were previously unavailable.

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