Alt: A doodle with a cat’s face talks to their doctor through their laptop. The doctor said, “Can you tilt the camera back? I need to see both the cat and your head to make my diagnosis. “

Here at the headquarters of We ❤ Health Literacy, we are big fans of preventative health care and preventing the spread of COVID-19. So these days, dear readers, we really have telehealth. According to CDC, 4 in 10 U.S. adults have avoided health care due to COVID-19 issues. This is, well, worrying! People need routine health care, whether or not there is a pandemic – and telehealth allows them to get it without any worries about COVID when they visit.

As health communicators, we can teach our audiences about telehealth and encourage them to try it. Start with a simple definition for newbies: Telehealth – sometimes referred to as telemedicine or virtual tour – is essentially remote healthcare. If you use a computer, phone, or tablet for a visit to the doctor, that’s telehealth.

And while telehealth certainly cannot replace all in-person tours, this is a great option for things like:

  • Annual examinations with your primary care physician
  • Dermatological visits
  • Mental health counseling
  • Nutritional advice
  • Follow-up visits to share test results

Once you’ve covered the basics, highlight some key benefits of telehealth:

  • It’s safer. The main selling point of telehealth today is getting care without the risk of contracting COVID from a doctor’s office or hospital. Think of it just as social distancing, but with your doctor.
  • It is faster. When you cut the ride, the waiting room, the second waiting room (uh, exam room), the visit is much shorter – and much easier to fit into a busy schedule. And who ever said, “I wish I had spent more time sitting in the waiting rooms”? That is true. No one!
  • It increases access. Telehealth is particularly useful for people who need to see a specialist but don’t live nearby – and it removes the transportation barrier in general. Many telehealth service providers also offer appointments outside of traditional doctor’s office hours, making it easier for people to find the hours that work for them.

So encourage your audience to ask if their doctors offer telehealth – and to check with their insurers to make sure it’s covered.

And finally, while the security of COVID will not be an issue in the future (we hope so!), 2 of the 3 benefits above will remain valid long after the pandemic has ended. So while this is a great tool for keeping people connected to care during COVID, we believe telehealth is here to stay.

The bottom line: Encourage your audience to explore telehealth – during COVID-19 and beyond.

Tweet about it: #Telehealth is a safe and effective way to get routine health care – during the pandemic and beyond. @CommunicateHlth offers tips for explaining the benefits of telehealth to your audience: #communicateCOVID