The COVID-19 pandemic caused the rapid transition to virtual health care for everything from preventive care and treatment of minor illnesses to specialty care, including behavioral health. Virtual care, also called telehealth or telemedicine, is a broad term that encompasses all the ways health care providers remotely interact with their patients. In addition to assessing patients by phone, doctors and other providers may use live video, audio, and instant messaging to communicate with their patients remotely.
At the onset of the pandemic, many health care providers changed from mostly or only office visits to completely virtual care, allowing patients to receive both acute and ongoing care while staying safe and socially distanced at home.
Even before COVID-19 occurred, University of California Health (UCH) was reshaping health care delivery by expanding telehealth services to complement in-person visits and increase patient access. The longer-term goal is to use virtual care for increasingly complex medical needs, giving patients greater access to specialists without the added time and expense of traveling. The pandemic accelerated the realization of this goal with UC providers now providing multiple levels of care for more people across the state.
While virtual care is expanding health care access to more and more people, it’s not always the best choice for everyone or in every situation. For example, the elderly and those with cognitive or physical limitations may be challenged to operate computers and mobile devices. Many rural communities offer only limited broadband. And those who have difficulty reading or understanding the login instructions will be challenged to connect. Technology can also make it more difficult for providers to recognize non-verbal cues, such as subtle facial expressions, that may be more apparent in a one-on-one setting. For these people, in-person office visits may continue to be the most appropriate choice.
What’s Best for You?
If you need help deciding, talk to your doctor about what they recommend for your situation, or call the Anthem 24/7 NurseLineSM at (800) 977-0027 to speak with a nurse about your symptoms and to get recommendations for care.