Telehealth vs. In-person Care: Which Is Best and Why It Matters

A male patient waves to his doctor during a telehealth video conference.

Although the technology necessary for telehealth has been around for years, the COVID-19 pandemic really helped to popularize the concept. Telehealth allows patients to use digital communication and information technology to access healthcare services remotely. As long as a patient has a reliable Wi-Fi connection, they can interact with healthcare providers anywhere in the world, removing the need for face-to-face visits

A senior man sits on the couch and talks to his doctor via a laptop.

Compared to pre-pandemic numbers, telehealth usage has grown tremendously, and patients are increasingly choosing telehealth vs. in-person care. Among Medicare users, there were just over 52 million telehealth visits in 2020, and between February 2020 and February 2021 overall telehealth usage increased 38x. This rapid, widespread adoption of telehealth demonstrates that telemedicine is and will continue to be a valuable tool in helping patients get the healthcare they need.

Whether you’re a business owner, senior care community owner, or caregiver, telehealth programs offer you the opportunity to improve your healthcare services while saving money. Read on to learn more about using telehealth vs. in-person care and the best way to implement telemedicine into your ecosystem. 

The Benefits of Telehealth vs. In-person Care

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged, one benefit of telehealth became clear: it eliminated physical contact between patients and their doctors. If a patient had COVID, or wanted to reduce their potential exposure, they could attend an appointment with their doctor from the comfort of their own home instead of meeting for face-to-face visits.

 A woman talks to her doctor over a zoom call as she explains her symptoms.

Outside of a global pandemic, telehealth still has considerable benefits and applications. Namely, patients with transportation challenges benefit greatly from not having to travel to their doctor. If someone is physically unfit to drive, they do not have to go outside their comfort zone and put themselves at risk. For example, a senior individual who is not comfortable with driving may be able to have their condition diagnosed over the phone.

Similarly, people who live far away from their healthcare provider can use telehealth to connect with the doctors they need. Those in remote areas no longer have to drive for hours or even fly to a specialist. Instead, they can make calls to specialists anywhere in the world as long as they have a Wi-Fi connection. 

Finally, telehealth enables people with busy schedules to fit in the healthcare appointments they need. Busy professionals no longer need to take time off work to drive to the doctor, sit in a waiting room, meet with various staff and doctors, and drive home. Instead, they can join calls from anywhere and save all that time they’d have spent on an office visit

When Is In-person Care Better?

Although telehealth certainly has its use cases and advantages, it is not always better than in-person visits. In-person care is still superior in cases where patients need in-person testing or physical intervention. However, telehealth can still be part of the care plan in these cases, as potentially severe conditions or symptoms requiring in-person care can be flagged during the session.

 A woman and her doctor discuss her health during an in-person visit.

Virtual visits are also not ideal for patients with cognitive conditions that might inhibit them from participating in a video session. For example, if a senior adult suffers from cognitive issues, they may not be able to communicate through or operate the video call effectively. In cases where these struggles prevent patients from describing their condition, in-person appointments are much more effective. 

Likewise, emergency situations and severe injuries should always be treated in-person. Such conditions are time sensitive and require physical intervention. 

However, telehealth is very effective for mental health or behavioral problems. Therapists and patients can talk over a video conferencing app with all the benefits of in-person therapy. Other applications where a physical examination is not essential tend to translate well to virtual environments. 

Investing In a Telehealth Solution

There is no one correct answer when it comes to the telehealth vs. in-person care debate, as each is best suited to different situations and cases. However, telehealth is certainly growing in popularity, which makes it all the more likely that a robust telehealth solution from the WellBe® product line will improve your employee healthcare or care capacity. 

For business owners, the HandsFree Health Go app can pair with Walmart Health Virtual Care — a flexible, affordable healthcare option that gives your staff access to virtual primary care, urgent care, and behavioral health care services for just $7 per month.

For care providers and senior care communities, the WellBe lineup has products ranging from a smart speaker to a smartwatch to a pendant that can keep your seniors safe and connected. From tracking medication adherence to reminding them about upcoming appointments to monitoring health data, WellBe keeps tabs on aging seniors and stores data that doctors can use during their telehealth appointments. 

To see how HFH Go makes health management easy and learn about Walmart Health Virtual Care, schedule a demo today! Or, if you want to see the difference that WellBe can make in your caregiving capacity, click here to contact us

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