Written on March 2, 2023 by Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH, Sexuality Educator & Certified Sexologist. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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The healthcare industry is continuously evolving, and smartphones have become a game-changer in increasing access to medical care.
Today, smartphones offer an unparalleled level of convenience, and with the help of virtual healthcare applications and technologies, it is now possible to provide and seek medical care from nearly anywhere and on your terms. Not only do smartphones make healthcare more convenient, but they increase overall access, save money, improve efficiency, reduce the potential for other infections, improve patient outcomes, and enable those who would otherwise not access medical care to do so. Read on to learn how smartphones can open up virtual care.
Telehealth has done wonders to increase access to healthcare and medical care, but telehealth still faces challenges in reaching those who may not have access to reliable broadband internet . Smartphones, in particular, can help close the gap, or digital divide, between individuals who have access to the internet and those who do not.
For context, as of 2020, about 85% of U.S. households reported having an internet subscription/service . Comparatively, the Pew Research Center reports that 97% of Americans own a cell phone . Among one of the most vulnerable populations, those who are unhoused/are experiencing homelessness, “daily internet use was reported by 39%” of participants in a study, but “94% owned mobile phones at the time of the interview” .
One study found “that living in areas with higher rates of broadband adoption significantly decreased the likelihood of accessing virtual care using a smartphone.” Thus, the inverse could be assumed—that living in areas with lower rates of broadband adoption increased the likelihood of accessing virtual care using a smartphone . In fact, “Belonging to historically marginalized communities of color (Black, Hispanic, and Native American) almost doubled the odds of using a smartphone” to access virtual care .
One journal notes, “The COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted the numerous benefits of telehealth, from reducing unnecessary exposure to infection to its potential to increase access to care by removing time and distance barriers,” among others .
Telemedicine on your smartphone allows you to get medical care from anywhere and on your schedule. You, and your healthcare providers, can also access your electronic medical health records from anywhere and monitor your ongoing health: “electronic health technology makes chronic illness control easier by simply placing care monitoring apps and smartphones in the hands of patients” .
Not only is telemedicine financially beneficial for providers, but patients can save money on transportation and childcare costs, and there’s no need to miss work for appointments. For people living in rural areas, “Regular hospital visits can be expensive … due to travel costs” .
Perhaps the most notable improvement in efficiency is improved communication, in quality and quantity: “doctors can easily continue to call patients for follow-ups or findings following an appointment. Therefore, text messages are essential because they enable the doctor to speak directly and quickly without another appointment” .
Patients would also benefit from less waiting times because telehealth can streamline the workflow of hospitals and clinics” . Furthermore, “During emergency operations, specialists will weigh in from afar” .
Virtual care has become a popular solution for patients seeking medical advice and treatment, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic: “In the era of the Covid-19 pandemic, where physical interaction becomes risky, people prefer telemedicine. Fortunately, medical visits can be reduced when telemedicine services are used through video conferencing or other virtual technologies” .
Not only does telemedicine via cell phone increase access domestically but “The most significant effect is provided in various countries where healthcare facilities are both scarce and unavailable” . Others who benefit include people in rural areas, marginalized communities, people with limited mobility, and people who have vulnerable immune systems, etc.
One study found that “Using health apps for scheduled follow-up visits makes doctors and patients more effective and improves the probability of follow-up, reducing missing appointments and optimizing patient outcomes” . Also, telemedicine “is a more beneficial technology that can make it easier for people to get preventive treatment and help their long-term health” .
Virtual care has opened up new avenues for healthcare providers to provide mental health services to patients. The anonymity of virtual care can help reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health services, which may encourage more people to seek care. With virtual care, patients can also receive immediate counseling, which can be lifesaving in emergencies.
Despite its multitudes of benefits, telehealth does have a few remaining limitations that still demand our attention. The limitations that exist whether one is using a smartphone or a computer at home include privacy, confidentiality, medical liability, fraud/abuse, access to controlled substances, and the potential for misdiagnosis .
Everlywell provides the convenience of telehealth visits, allowing you to access comprehensive testing, diagnosis, and treatment from the comfort of your own home. The use of privacy-protecting technology ensures your confidentiality. The cost of these visits ranges from $10 to $60, depending on your insurance, and most major insurance plans are accepted.
Telehealth via Everlywell may help address conditions/symptoms like: