Telehealth, services in which medical professionals offer health-related advice via phone, video or app, may be a necessity during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic because of the highly contagious nature of the virus and an overwhelmed healthcare system.
For people who aren’t sure if their symptoms are COVID-19 or have another illness they need a doctor for but are also self-isolating and don’t want to go to a doctor’s office, telehealth may be the answer. “Telehealth is an ideal venue for an outbreak like this [coronavirus]. We can increase access to care. We can offer care that is commensurate with the acuity and nature of the symptoms and make referrals as needed. This [telehealth] helps with infection prevention and control and also allows patients to receive their care in the home without exposing themselves to further illness,” said Peter Antall, MD, President and Chief Medical Officer for American Well, a Boston telemedicine company.
Many telehealth and app-based services offer subscription and annual plans for the treatment of physical and mental health needs. Some telehealth services offer ongoing treatments, and other plans are there when consumers need them. Many telehealth businesses have stepped up during coronavirus to offer free treatments and assistance when possible.
HealthTap Offers Tech-Powered Symptom Analysis And, For An Annual Fee, Virtual Medical Consultations
HealthTap bills itself as “peace-of-mind on tap,” offering an annual subscription that allows members unlimited virtual visits from board-certified doctors for $119 per year. Members can get prescriptions, specialist referrals, lab results and reminders about treatment plans as part of their annual HealthTap memberships, although the cost of prescriptions and lab tests is extra.
As with many telehealth services, HealthTap leverages technology and comprehensive apps to offer the most up-to-the-minute help. Additionally, HealthTap also has services available via free memberships, like doctor FAQs and readily available virtual visit histories. During coronavirus, HealthTap is offering free virtual COVID consults “with a U.S.-based, board-certified doctor for anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms including a cough, runny nose or fever.”
Meditation Apps, Like Headspace, Can Offer Comfort During Stressful Times
In light of the ongoing stress that has been brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Apple created a Guided Meditation tab in the App Store and is encouraging users “to find time for self-care,” as reported in a recent AdWeek article. Meditation apps like Calm, Breethe and Headspace, all of which offer subscriptions, have seen increased traffic recently, with many users likely seeking ways to find moments of calm during this global emergency.
Headspace, which has monthly, annual, individual, family and student subscriptions, provides subscribers with daily meditations, movement, sleep solutions and targeted mediation programs, like those designed for kids or for dealing with anxiety. The meditation app developed an extensive response to COVID-19 called “Weathering the storm,” that offers targeted meditations accessible to anyone on the Headspace app, while also pulling together free meditations, support and resources for educators and workplace leaders.
Healthcare workers will have access to Headspace Plus, essentially a full subscription with all the bells and whistles, through 2020. “It’s crucial for us to find ways to support our healthcare workers’ mental health and provide them with tools for managing the very real personal toll this crisis takes on them in particular,” said Deborah Hyun, Vice President of Global Marketing at Headspace. Hyun also noted that the number of people who have completed the “Stressed” meditation has grown 13-fold compared to the prior 30 days.
TAO Connect Offers A Comprehensive Mental Health Program By Monthly Subscription
TAO Connect was originally created to offer mental health support to college students, but it is now available to anyone 16 and older. TAO memberships, which are $25 per month or $250 per year, offer “low intensity, high-engagement” treatment for eight different mental health profiles. The TAO therapy itself combines online, interactive education modules, short weekly therapy sessions via video-conferencing and text message reminders related to the agreed upon treatment.
TAO follows a proven measurement system to monitor the progress of clients, and the therapist dashboard allows therapists in the TAO system to keep track of how their clients are doing. Founder Dr. Sherry Benton wants to decrease the disparities that exist in the treatment of mental health issues, saying, “My goal always is to try to do everything I can to reduce mental health disparities. Making [therapy] easier and just as effective is my mission in life.” During coronavirus, TAO is offering free mindfulness exercises on their website.
Telehealth Is Evolving With The Use Of AI And Partnerships With Hospitals
Over the last several years, the use of telehealth is building momentum. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), “A national study of insurance claims filed for alternative settings of care found telehealth rocketed up 53% from 2016 to 2017. That growth greatly outpaced other places studied — 14% at urgent care centers, 7% at retail clinics and 6% at ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs).”
Many people want to take control of their own healthcare, and telehealth can provide that autonomy, whether through subscriptions or apps that partner with healthcare providers, like telemedicine start-up Gyant. Gyant uses artificial intelligence (AI) to “drive more meaningful patient-doctor engagements” by guiding users through a series of AI-generated questions and then pointing its members to the right providers. The startup also uses its technology to populate patient charts, reducing administrative burden and doctor burnout. Other telehealth companies are similarly leaning into technological options and partnerships to offer the most sophisticated and user-friendly services.
The advancement in telehealth technology and the ease and trust people feel using telehealth services could have a long-term impact on the delivery of healthcare, and in the short term provide relief during the coronavirus crisis.
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