What is Telehealth or Telemedicine?
Many healthcare providers may be using telehealth and telemedicine services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But what do these terms really mean? While they are often used to mean the same thing, telehealth is the use of a wide range of telecommunication technologies to support and promote patient care, and telemedicine is a subset of telehealth that specifically refers to providing health care over a distance using telecommunications technology (such as phone calls or video chats). Like an in-office visit, your telemedicine appointment is secure, confidential and judgment-free.
How Does Telemedicine Work?
Depending on your healthcare provider, a different online platform may be used for telemedicine services. In a video chat appointment, patients can talk with their healthcare provider while the provider performs a visual exam in real-time. No in-person contact occurs. Think of it like FaceTime but secure to protect your privacy. You may be asked to complete online health forms in advance of your telemedicine appointment or to mail in paper copies.
These online platforms allow healthcare providers to text or email you a link. When your appointment time arrives, you simply click on the link and are connected via video with your provider. If you have limited access to the Internet or don’t require a visual exam, your provider may be able to perform your appointment over a simple phone call instead.
What Are the Benefits of Telemedicine?
One of the biggest benefits of telemedicine appointments is that the risk of infection between patients, staff and providers is eliminated. Telemedicine also provides you with easier access to care, especially if you live in a rural area or don’t have access to transportation. Other benefits include less travel time, less wait time, and no exposure to other patients.
What Family Planning Telemedicine Services Are Offered?
Hormonal contraception, or birth control, may be prescribed with a telemedicine appointment. To find the best option for you, your provider may discuss risk of pregnancy, the available methods, how to use them and your preferences and priorities that fit your lifestyle.
Sexually transmitted infections (STI) care via telemedicine includes STI testing (you can mail in self-collected samples), prescribed medications and home care treatment for certain (not all) STIs, at-home human papillomavirus (HPV) testing and PrEP prescriptions for HIV prevention. You will also receive education on how to prevent STIs.
Medications can be prescribed to be filled at the pharmacy, mailed to you or you may be offered curbside pickup at the health center. Consultations of all kinds are available, from simple questions and concerns, to visual exams and STI services.
Family planning services are easily available via telemedicine. You may discuss your contraception options, or changing or stopping your contraceptive method. You might also talk about what to do if you have an expired intrauterine device (IUD) or implant and can’t get in to see your provider or do not want to risk infection during the COVID-19 pandemic. These services may also include preparing for a healthy pregnancy or at-home pregnancy testing.
Find the NJFPL-supported health center that is closest or most convenient to you and call to ask what telemedicine services are available and set up your appointment.