In a few short weeks, American healthcare has been transformed by the new coronavirus which causes COVID-19. One rare bright spot in this emergency is the rapid expansion of telehealth programs. Medical practices, hospital campuses, and even Planned Parenthood are rolling out or increasing capacity for their existing telehealth options. The telehealth expansion means that even in the midst of the COVID-19 health emergency, healthcare and everyday wellbeing can still be addressed safely.

Advantages of Telehealth during COVID-19

In the midst of a pandemic, telehealth’s most significant advantage is protection of patients and healthcare workers alike. Understandably, many prospective patients don’t want to visit a doctor’s office at this time, especially for a complaint that doesn’t seem serious.

However, just because Americans are under stay-at-home orders doesn’t mean that everyday ailments like strep throat, pinkeye, or sinus infections are going to take a break. They still require diagnosis and prescriptions from a medical professional for proper treatment. With a virtual appointment, doctors can triage, diagnose, and issue prescriptions or directions for further care without coming into contact with patients — an important factor in the age of social distancing.

As for using telehealth for COVID-19 itself, patients experiencing symptoms of this virus can be funneled to the next appropriate step in their care journey — whether it’s to visit a test site, hospital, or to convalesce at home — without the risk of contact with doctors, support staff, or other patients. As many COVID-19 cases are not severe enough to require hospitalization, a telehealth appointment minimizes exposure to at-risk populations as well as medical staff, and reduces the usage of personal protective equipment.

Telling Your Teams About Telehealth

Thanks to agile medical teams and the support of state and federal governments, telehealth options are more available than other, and that expansion is expected to continue rapidly over coming months. Making sure your employees are aware of their telehealth options now can help keep them, and medical personnel, safe as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 situation.

If your benefits programs includes telehealth-specific options, consider sharing information about the costs associated with appointments, the technology needed (most offer phone call or video chats), and the situations in which Telehealth is or isn’t appropriate. You may also want to encourage employees to register before care is needed, to avoid delays should they utilize the service in the future.

Plus, as more medical practices expand their telehealth options, employees may find their favorite general practitioner or specialist is now offering virtual visits, so they should check in with those offices for the latest options.

Protecting Each Other

The expansion of telehealth coincides with our need to protect one another, including our medical professionals and at-risk populations, as the COVID-19 emergency continues. Use this as an opportunity to showcase how your benefits program, and your entire company, are invested in the wellbeing of your employees and beyond.