Telehealth, also known as telemedicine, isn’t a new field, but it has surged in popularity over the past several years. Telehealth means using technology to monitor a patient’s physiological status and health remotely. Telehealth helps reduce the need for costly doctor’s visits, but it doesn’t eliminate the need for face-to-face doctor’s visits altogether. Telehealth simply gives physicians new ways to enhance and expand the healthcare industry. In fact, some insurance companies are even beginning to cover teledoctor visits.

Over the past couple of years, you may have found yourself expecting more from your insurance company, primary care physician and other healthcare providers you interact with. Why? The healthcare industry is changing, and you expect that everyone involved is keeping up with the changes. More and more insurance companies and physicians are embracing telehealth because they realize the positive impact it can have on the healthcare industry. Here are four ways telehealth can – and is – improving the healthcare industry:

Improved access to healthcare

Many patients find it difficult to travel to walk-in clinics, doctor’s office and hospitals. Maybe they live in a remote area and the closest medical care facility is over an hour away or they’re elderly and rely on other people to drive them places. Telemedicine is a great option for people with unique challenges that may have kept them from receiving traditional healthcare in the past. With telemedicine, all you need is access to a phone or computer, and then you can take advantage of remote healthcare and monitoring.

Faster diagnosis of certain conditions

It can take days, and even weeks, to get an appointment with a doctor. Sometimes, a situation is urgent enough to need immediate attention but not serious enough for a trip to the emergency room. In these situations, a telehealth provider is incredibly beneficial. Telemedicine can provide a faster diagnosis of certain conditions such as the flu, a cold, skin conditions and more. For example, instead of making a trip to the doctor for the rash on your arms, you take a picture of the rash and send it to an online doctor who can diagnose the situation and provide treatment. Telehealth providers also have the ability to prescribe medication when needed.

Reduced healthcare costs

If you can’t get an appointment with your primary care physician, you’ll likely turn to urgent care or the emergency room. The average cost of an emergency room visit is around $1,200, but people with an insurance plan with a high deductible often find themselves paying more. Although urgent care is much cheaper than a trip to the emergency room, you’ll still probably spend more than necessary on treatment for your non-emergency medical situation. Telehealth providers cost far less than urgent care or the emergency room, and you’ll have access to a doctor within minutes as opposed to having to wait hours or even days.

Easier management of existing health conditions

Telehealth providers can also help with managing existing health conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. These conditions often require repeated visits to a doctor, and over time, the costs add up. Telehealth providers can help you better manage these conditions and reduce the amount of times you need to make a trip to your doctor’s office by reviewing blood work, prescribing medications and giving you a plan of action for keeping your health condition under control.