In this new era of COVID-19, adapting to new ways of performing old tasks is daunting yet necessary -- especially when it comes to health care. With hospitals and physicians’ offices rightly prioritizing the sickest among us during the crisis, telehealth medicine can help us maintain our regular wellbeing.
“Even in this period of time, people are reluctant or nervous or don't want to be a hassle,” says Margaret Browne, a vice president in health care services with Premera Blue Cross. “But it is really important, critically important, for those of us who have chronic conditions that we're still seeking the care that we need.”
With teleconferencing, you are able to check-in with your provider without assuming the risks of leaving home.
“The virtual visit is a really good way to ensure that you are reserving the space that the acutely ill need, but still connecting with providers to ensure that you are taking care of yourself both physically and mentally."
There are several ways to connect with your doctor remotely – text, telephone, video, or whatever makes you most comfortable. Premera is one insurance provider offering a variety of services, including therapy, “Mental health is a really important aspect of our care."
If you already have a primary care physician, Browne says it’s best to call them to see if they are set up for virtual visits. Otherwise, insurance providers can provide you with a list of telehealth-ready doctors to get you started.
Telehealth visits often do not require co-pays, particularly now: “In a traditional setting, telehealth benefits typically bring co-pay relief to patients. And so, even in a non-COVID world, the co-pays tend to be lower. In this period of time, Premera, along with other payers in the space, have made telehealth visits available at no co-pay to members.”
Getting yourself set up to make a virtual visit is not as hard as it may seem. With Premera, you simply download an app to your phone or tablet, log into a secure platform and begin your at-home, virtual visit.
It’s important to note that telehealth is not a replacement for in-person visits, but rather a supplement. When you need to be physically seen by a doctor, you will still be taken care of.
“If there is an urgent need that a patient needs to see a provider in person, you will be triaged to do that,” Browne said. “There are still going to be cases where the telehealth route will not be the case [and] the patient will need to get themselves into physical care, either in urgent care or an emergency room setting.”
For more information about telehealth, visit the Premera website.