Telehealth: More Access to What We Need

Graphic of a hand holding a wrench. Text says, "Info, strategy"

By Jen Mullins, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Earlier this year, I had an experience that I think many of us have had: I was home sick with a cold/virus/etc. and couldn’t get an appointment with my regular doctor (not that I really felt up to leaving my home to drive to the doctor & sit in the waiting room anyway).  Thankfully, there was an accessible solution I hadn’t even considered:  a co-worker informed me that telehealth is a part of our health insurance and I could have a video call with a doctor to get checked out & get medicine if they decided to prescribe it.  Shortly after speaking with my co-worker, I had downloaded the app and was “on hold” waiting to video chat with a licensed physician; all from my phone! Hold screen featuring the image of a doctor. Text: You are the next patient to see Rebecca Beach-Beyer, Family Physician.

When a telehealth doctor was available, they greeted me, asked a few questions, looked at the brief medical history I had typed into the app, and prescribed me an antibiotic (she said she thought I had strep throat, but of course couldn’t do the test for it over the phone).  The telehealth doctor said that I should inform my regular physician if I didn’t get better within the next few days and book an appointment with them then.  That’s it!  The video portion took about 8 minutes and there was a prescription ready at my local pharmacy in about an hour.  My credit card was charged the price of a traditional office visit co-pay.  It was so easy & accessible to me, I remember feeling like I had cheated or something (but of course I hadn’t!)  It got me thinking: why isn’t more healthcare more accessible?  Assistive Technology can facilitate more accessible access to healthcare.

Illuminated light bulb

I’m an avid NPR/Michigan Radio listener and recently listened to a piece that talked about Telemedicine for Autism-related therapy.  The therapy mentioned in the piece traditionally requires a therapist to come to the individual’s home to provide An adult woman reading a book to a small child.support/assistance to person and the caregivers.  With Telemedicine, the therapist Skypes (does a video call) with the individual and their team/family to observe and provide those same ideas for support/assistance.  The family highlighted in the radio piece lives in a rural area and it’s not always convenient or covered by insurance to have therapists come to them; a video call is a great solution and reportedly works well for their family.

While doing some household chores recently, I turned on one of my favorite podcasts, The No Sleep podcast.  While I listened to the commercial introduction, I heard an advertisement for Talkspace: therapy via an internet connection.  My ears perked up and I smiled at hearing more about other applications of telehealth!  Talkspace’s website shares: “We created Talkspace so more people could benefit from therapy and overcome their day-to-day challenges in a stigma-free environment.  We are not trying to replace in-office therapy. Many people prefer that, which is fine. It can be difficult to wait days or weeks until your next appointment. With Talkspace, you can send your therapist a message whenever you’re near a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.  Talkspace has therapists that can help you with depression, anxiety, the challenges of being part of the LGBT Community or a Veteran, and more.”

Man texting on his phone.

The applications of telehealth I mentioned in this blog post are only a few of what’s available and more and more is being added/made accessible everyday.  Have you used telehealth before?  Would you consider using it?