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Types of telehealth care and services

Medically reviewed on November 8, 2022 by Amy Harris, MS, RN, CNM. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

The internet has fundamentally altered how we conduct our lives, including how, when, and where we receive medical care.

With telehealth, you can meet with your healthcare provider over the phone, on video, or through a virtual chat for numerous healthcare services, from receiving an evaluation of your recent test results to seeking advice on how to use an inhaler—all without the waiting rooms, paper gowns, and germ exposure. [1]

Telehealth has expanded substantially in recent years and now covers a wide range of care and services to deliver healthcare to patients far and wide. [2]

How is telehealth performed?

What is telehealth? Telehealth takes excellent advantage of modern technology and allows patients to communicate remotely with their healthcare providers and other healthcare professionals on their smartphone, laptop, computer, or tablet. Virtual visits can be conducted through: [7]

  • Telephone calls
  • Video conferences on platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime
  • Text messaging

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is—and that’s one of the beauties of telehealth service. That said, there are three types of telehealth practices that’ll determine the patient care you receive.

What are the different types of telehealth?

Telehealth is typically divided into three categories—synchronous, asynchronous, and remote patient monitoring. [3]

Synchronous telehealth

Synchronous telehealth refers to clinical services that are provided in “real time” via a live conversation between you and your healthcare provider.

What does this look like?

Generally, it means a discussion between you and your healthcare provider over video conducted from a remote site, such as your bedroom, bathroom, office, or even car. A virtual visit more or less mirrors how a traditional, physical appointment unfolds. Your healthcare provider will likely:

  • Review your medical history
  • Evaluate your present symptoms
  • Provide you with a treatment plan, when applicable

Naturally, this may include other assessments like zooming in on a rash on your hand or a wound on your face—it all depends on why you’re seeking medical care.

Synchronous telehealth might also involve what’s known as a Facilitated Virtual Visit (FVV), which occurs in a clinical setting.

Say, for example, that your primary care healthcare provider is at a conference in another city, and you have a swollen, bruised ankle. A medical assistant or nurse will use diagnostic tools to perform a physical exam, such as an X-ray, and send the data to your PCP, who will then make a diagnosis and/or set up a course of treatment from afar.

The benefits of synchronous telehealth are far-reaching. It’s normally praised for its: [5]

  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Enhanced convenience
  • Improved accessibility to quality patient care

While telehealth is widely available, it’s especially beneficial for people who live in an isolated area with limited or no access to nearby medical care. It can also help keep patients safe from exposure to potentially deleterious pathogens.

Asynchronous telehealth

Asynchronous telehealth is what’s called the ‘store-and-forward’ method, in which medical information is sent from a patient or healthcare provider to a specialist. This might include:

  • Your medical history
  • Your lab results
  • Images

For instance, you might contact your primary care healthcare provider about a constellation of hives that have broken out on your back. Your PCP might ask you to take a photo of the hives, which they will then send to a dermatologist for assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

This simplifies and expedites the process, saving you time and accelerating your recovery, as it could take months to schedule an in-person appointment with a dermatologist, or you might live some distance away from one.

Remote patient monitoring

Remote patient monitoring is precisely as it sounds. It allows your healthcare provider to observe and keep track of your health from a distant location.

This, too, is especially helpful for patients who live in rural, isolated areas with limited access to a healthcare facility, as well as those who have mobility challenges. It’s also valuable for patients with a chronic condition, such as diabetes, or an acute condition, like COVID-19, in which case your healthcare provider may want to track your respiratory rate or oxygen levels.

Mobile apps and devices like blood glucose meters, pulse oximeters, and blood pressure monitors make remote patient monitoring possible. It can help your healthcare provider treat and manage a broad swath of health concerns and conditions, including: [1, 4]

  • Asthma
  • Sinitus
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Ultimately, remote patient monitoring furnishes your healthcare provider with the opportunity to keep an eye on you, make necessary changes to your treatment plan, determine your prognosis, and more. Remote patient monitoring has also been shown to curb hospitalizations, grant patients access to preventative care for chronic conditions, reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, and lead to more positive health outcomes. [4]

What kind of care does telehealth service cover?

Those new to telehealth may feel that it has its limitations. This may be true to some extent, and there are certainly times and circumstances that require a physical appointment.

Sometimes a healthcare provider simply needs to hear a patient breathing, feel a bump, or conduct a hands-on exam that cannot be accomplished over video. [5]

Overall, though, telehealth encompasses a vast range of fields. These include: [6]

  • Neurology
  • Mental health
  • Dermatology
  • Primary care
  • Urgent care

What services does telehealth offer?

Telehealth can be as unique as the patient using it to monitor their health. It can arrive in the form of:

  • Caregiver support – Caregivers, such as those managing the daily necessities of a loved one with Alzheimer’s, can receive guidance and support from a telehealth provider. This may include tips and tricks on bathing and eating, education, and answers to their questions. It can also extend to sensors that will alert them if their loved one has left the premises. [1] Telehealth can be particularly meaningful for caregivers who cannot leave their loved one alone to attend a physical appointment.
  • Nutritional counseling – Whether you have diabetes or celiac disease, telehealth can provide you with the counseling you need to make wise dietary decisions. [10]
  • Urgent care assistance – You may have come down with a terrible cough, an awful sore throat, or a debilitating stomach ache—and the last thing you want to do is get dressed, travel to the nearest urgent care facility or your primary care healthcare provider’s office, and sit in a waiting room for a long period of time (all the while feeling progressively worse). Telehealth allows you to receive care for these concerns from the comfort of your home—even your bed. [6]
  • Dermatology exams – Thanks to advancements in technology, your dermatologist can take a look at your skin from a distance to make a diagnosis and establish a treatment plan, whether it’s for atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, or an allergic reaction to a new detergent. [6]

Telehealth can also be used for: [6]

  • Mental health counseling and medication treatment
  • Prescription management
  • Wellness exams

Lastly, telehealth typically enables you to use an online portal, where you can send messages to your healthcare provider, ask questions, review your test results, and book appointments. With telehealth, you can also receive appointment and medication reminders, or notices to schedule a routine screening appointment, such as your yearly gynecological exam or a mammogram. [7]

Are there any drawbacks to telehealth care and services?

Some people prefer direct contact with their healthcare provider and may feel more confident about their health and treatment plan after a physical appointment.

While advancements are being made daily to improve telehealth, your presence is required for certain consultations and exams, including (but certainly not limited to): [5]

  • Tests that require a blood draw
  • Diagnostic imaging tests, such as MRIs and X-rays
  • Ultrasounds
  • Gynecological exams
  • Mammograms
  • Colonoscopies

Further, telehealth may lead to unnecessary drug prescriptions and a lack of continuity in care. [7]

To this end, telehealth is thought of—and practiced—as a way to supplement physical appointments and traditional care. You shouldn’t rely entirely on one or the other, but use them in concert for the best results. [9]

Overall, telehealth has changed the face of medicine and increased our ability to receive sound medical treatment.

Take telehealth to the next level with Everlywell

The swift adoption of telehealth in recent years has made obtaining clinical care simpler, faster, and more convenient for many. Everlywell can help elevate your telehealth experiences with Virtual Care Visits that let you speak with a healthcare provider on your schedule.

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How do I do a virtual visit with my healthcare provider?

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Can medication be prescribed via telehealth?

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  1. Telehealth. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed November 8, 2022.
  2. Garfan S, Alamoodi AH, Zaidan BB, et al. Telehealth utilization during the Covid-19 pandemic: A systematic review. Comput Biol Med. 2021;138:104878. doi:10.1016/j.compbiomed.2021.104878
  3. Telehealth Systems. StatPearls [Internet]. URL. Accessed November 8, 2022.
  4. Telehealth and remote patient monitoring. HHS.gov. URL. Accessed November 8, 2022.
  5. Telehealth: The advantages and disadvantages. Harvard Health. URL. Accessed November 8, 2022.
  6. Telehealth: What is it, how to prepare, is it covered? National Institute on Aging. URL. Accessed November 8, 2022.
  7. Telehealth: Technology Meets Health Care. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published June 18, 2022. Accessed November 8, 2022.
  8. What is telehealth? HHS.gov. URL. Accessed November 8, 2022.
  9. Gajarawala SN, Pelkowski JN. Telehealth Benefits and Barriers. J Nurse Pract. 2021;17(2):218-221. doi:10.1016/j.nurpra.2020.09.013
  10. Shima M, Piovacari SMF, Steinman M, Pereira AZ, Dos Santos OFP. Telehealth for Nutritional Care: A Tool for Improving Patient Flow in Hospitals. Telemed Rep. 2022;3(1):117-124. Published 2022 Jun 28. doi:10.1089/tmr.2021.0054
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