In the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, government leaders and health experts are calling for social distancing. Also known as physical distancing, it involves being 6 feet away (or 2 arms’ length) away from another individual. According to the CDC, social distancing also calls for avoiding groups, crowded places, and mass gatherings as well.
To maintain social distancing – and to help flatten the curve – doctors have recommended the use of telemedicine, also known as telehealth. This allows recovering alcoholics (and other alcoholics) to get the treatment that they need – whilst maintaining a safe physical distance.
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What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine involves the use of a smartphone, tablet, or laptop for consultation. Several telehealth platforms can be used for a virtual consult. They include:
- me – This platform can be used for free, though you need to pay to a certain amount unlock some other options.
- eVisit– This paid platform has fees ranging from $50 to $150 per month.
- SimpleVisit– This telemedicine portal requires a fee of $150 a month.
- Vsee– Some members can get a consult for free, although reports show that fees can cost up to $250 per month.
- MendFamily– This is perhaps the most expensive platform in the market, with fees ranging from $250 to $500 per month.
- SpruceHealth– This website is commonly used in primary care. There is no available data to determine the cost as of yet.
If you can’t afford these services, or if you don’t have medical insurance, you don’t have to worry. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, Medicare and Medicaid will pay for telemedicine services during this pandemic.
Apart from the above-mentioned platforms, the Department of Health and Human Services has also permitted the use of several apps. Now, you can check in with your doctor or therapist with the use of Skype, Facebook Messenger, Apple FaceTime, and Google Hangouts, to name a few.
Types of Telemedicine Services
Opting for these virtual services can help you with your alcoholism concerns – without breaking the rules of social distancing. In this pandemic, Medicare practitioners, as with other health care professionals, may provide any of the following services:
This allows a ‘real-time’ virtual visit with the help of interactive audio and video communications system. This allows doctors, psychologists, social workers, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare providers to help both new and existing patients.
Telehealth visits can cover a wide range of services, including:
- Emergency services
- Initial inpatient services
- Office or outpatient visits
This is similar to a telehealth visit, although this makes use of an accredited patient portal. An E-visit is for old patients only, or those who have already been consulting with a healthcare practitioner. This is very useful for alcoholics who need to continue their therapy with their counselors.
This is a brief service that allows the doctor to respond to your concerns through text, phone call, e-mail, or video messaging. This allows your healthcare professional to check up on you and to see how you have been faring during the pandemic. With that being said, this is ideal for alcoholics whose real-life treatment sessions have been interrupted by the pandemic.
Telemedicine for Alcoholism
To keep up with social distancing, more and more healthcare providers are recommending for telemedicine. While some people might think of this as something new, it has long been used in alcoholism treatment. Such was chronicled in the 2005 study of Frueh et al. The authors studied 14 subjects who have attended 8 sessions of telemedicine therapy in 4 weeks.
Results show that the participants demonstrated good attendance and attrition. They reported high levels of satisfaction with the program as well. Overall, the results were similar to what happens with traditional treatment.
Further strengthening this claim is a study by Kruse et al. According to the researchers, telemedicine can indeed help reduce alcohol consumption. Results show that telehealth has helped bring the following results:
- Better accessibility
- Increased patient satisfaction
- Reduced depression
- Increased quality of life
- Decreased cost
Why Go For Telehealth?
Although telemedicine has long been available, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it more indispensable than ever. After all, it comes with a variety of benefits:
Fewer Chances of Contracting the Disease
Doctor’s clinics can be incubators for the disease. Healthy people going for routine check-ups can be mixed in with sick people. At the same time, frontline physicians can bring viruses from the hospital to their clinics. Fortunately, telehealth can prevent these worst-case scenarios. You can get the services that you need without putting yourself or your family members at risk.
Lesser Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
All countries, the United States included, are in the midst of PPE shortage. Hospitals are running out of masks, face shields, booties, and other necessary protective wear. To make do with this, front liners are using barriers that are not as effective as the medical-grade ones. As a consequence, medical workers are falling sick one by one – putting a further strain in an already stretched healthcare system.
This is where telehealth comes into the picture. Physicians giving check-ups (as well as their patients) need not use dwindling stocks. As such, it helps conserve precious PPE, so they can be utilized by those who need them the most.
Better Healthcare Delivery
Real-life check-ups may be rushed, if not canceled, to lessen exposure to possible patients. Minor complaints and other non-emergency concerns (such as alcoholism) may be turned away to prevent cross-contamination.
With telehealth, you need not worry about relapsing just because you can’t set an appointment with your counselor. Since you and your therapist are in relatively safe locations, you can receive the alcoholism treatment that you need. This is of course, minus the rush and the fear of contracting the virus.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, social distancing is recommended by experts. To avoid unnecessary congregations in doctor’s clinics, the government is lobbying for telehealth consults. Not only will this reduce your exposure to the disease, but it can help reduce the PPE shortage as well. With Medicare and Insurance Companies bearing the cost of these services, there is no reason why you shouldn’t consider telemedicine for your alcoholism treatment.