what is telehealth?
Telehealth is a service that uses video calls and other technology to help you see your doctor or other health care provider from your home instead of in a medical facility. Telehealth can be particularly helpful for older adults with limited mobility and those who live in rural areas, as they will have the opportunity to see and talk with their doctor from home. For older adults, talking to your doctor online—via a phone, tablet, or other electronic device—can often be easier, faster, and less expensive than going into an office.
Telehealth can also help family caregivers caring for loved ones, whether near or far. If a caregiver needs to ask the doctor a question, they can do so through an online health portal instead of waiting and traveling to an in-person appointment.
Telehealth and telemedicine are two different types of online health care services. Telemedicine specifically refers to online doctor visits, while telehealth also includes health-related education services, such as diabetes management or nutrition courses and health-related training.
preparing for a telehealth appointment: tips for older adults
The transition from in-person dating to online dating can be difficult for some people, especially those who are not tech-savvy. By taking a few minutes before your appointment to prepare, you can set yourself up for a more successful visit.
- add online appointments to your calendar. once your appointment is confirmed, add it to your calendar so you don’t forget.
- try to use the best camera you can find. This can be attached to your phone, laptop, tablet or desktop. a clear picture can help your doctor understand and address your concerns more easily and effectively.
- Try the camera ahead of time. Practice ahead of time with a family member or friend to make sure you understand how to use the camera when you have your online visit with your doctor.
- Test the sound and video on your device. Most devices have built-in microphones and speakers, but you may need to turn them on or enable your telehealth software or website to access them. Video calling a friend before your appointment can help ensure everything runs smoothly. Using hearing aids can make it easier for you to hear your doctor and for your doctor to hear you, but it’s good to try them first to see what works best.
- Use the best internet connection possible. if you are not using wi-fi, try to get the best signal by using a wired connection to your router or an ethernet cable. If you’re using Wi-Fi, being physically close to your internet router and minimizing the devices connected to it can help improve your connection.
- Charge your device. If you are using a wireless device, such as a phone, laptop, or tablet, make sure the battery is strong enough to last your entire appointment. try charging it the night before your date.
- Find a quiet space and adjust the lighting. Limit distractions and clutter in your space. try to find a place with good lighting so your doctor can see you properly.
- get down. place the device on a sturdy surface so you can move around if you need to. try to position the device so that your head and shoulders are within the camera frame.
- Prepare a list of questions/concerns. Being prepared for your appointment will help make it easier for you and your doctor to cover everything you need to talk about.
- other insurance you may have
- how much does your doctor charge
- the type of installation
- where you get your test, item or service
Are telehealth appointments covered by insurance?
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Many insurance providers, including Medicaid and some private insurers, are beginning to cover telehealth services. however, telehealth coverage varies widely from state to state, with differences in how telehealth is defined and paid for. Because insurance coverage policies differ, it’s important to check directly with insurance providers or your health care provider’s billing department for the latest information on coverage of telehealth services.
Will Medicare Cover My Telehealth Appointment?
If you are enrolled in Medicare Part B, certain telehealth services, such as doctor visits, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services, may be covered.
The specific amount you will owe may depend on several factors, including:
Medicare also covers virtual check-ins and electronic visits.
Medicare Advantage plans are a type of Medicare health plan offered by a private company that contracts with Medicare to provide Part A and Part B benefits. these plans may offer more telehealth benefits than original medicare.
Medicare plans are constantly changing and being updated. check with your provider to see what telehealth benefits are offered for your plan.
learn more about medicare and telehealth services.
online clinical research trials and evaluations
Are you involved in a clinical trial or considering participating in research? Clinical trials generally require in-person visits. however, some clinical trials are conducting surveys or initial research tests online, while some studies and trials are being conducted entirely online. conducting clinical trials online can help encourage people to participate. Online clinical trials help eliminate travel time to trial sites and allow patients to participate from the comfort of their home. this is increasingly beneficial for older adults who have limited mobility.
Find a clinical trial that works for you using the clinical trials finder or clinictrials.gov.
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for more information on telehealth services
This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). nia scientists and other experts review this content to make sure it’s accurate and up-to-date.
content revised: August 26, 2020