By Dan Matthews, Writer, Content Consultant, and Researcher
The spread of misinformation is one of the primary reasons for the lack of trust in vaccines. With COVID-19 especially, false information has spread like wildfire, leading to extreme wariness and vaccine avoidance. However, while digital media has contributed to the hysteria, not all digital applications hurt vaccine administration.
With new technologies, telehealth services have made healthcare services more accessible, including access to vaccines and reliable information. Those who previously turned to the internet and unreliable sources for information can now set up a mobile healthcare appointment to get the treatment and information they need without having to visit the office in person.
Having access to telehealth services is especially helpful for those who fear visiting doctor’s offices and for more vulnerable populations and communities with limited access to traditional healthcare services and insurance coverage. Overall, mobile telehealth is helping everyone gain better access to accurate information from medical experts and access to the treatments they need, such as vaccines.
Understanding Mobile Telehealth
Though telehealth services have been around for a while, they have only recently gained in popularity and use amongst the medical community. Nearly every doctor’s office now offers mobile telehealth services due to demand and necessity after the pandemic. But what is mobile telehealth exactly?
Telehealth services, also known as telemedicine, allow doctors and other healthcare professionals to interact with patients over a computer, tablet, or other mobile devices, like smartphones. It enables them to consult with, diagnose, and treat patients without the need for an in-office visit. Of course, some illnesses and other issues may still necessitate the need for an in-person visit. Still, with an initial telehealth appointment, doctors can determine the severity of the situation and eliminate the need for everyone to come into the office.
Mobile telehealth services allow you to speak with your doctor live over video chat, send and receive messages, receive results and follow-ups, manage prescriptions, and enable doctors to check up on patients and their vital signs with the help of digital monitoring devices. Furthermore, telehealth services allow medical professionals to keep track of data that can be used to improve the future of medicine and healthcare services, like the CDC’s vaccine safety monitoring system, v-safe.
The Benefits of Telehealth for Vaccine Administration
Though the pandemic is not something to celebrate, the acceleration of mobile telehealth services was spurred by COVID-19 and the need for access to remote healthcare. Not only has telemedicine now enabled us to have easier access to healthcare services, but it has also benefited vaccine distribution and administration.
Better Communication and Trust Surrounding Vaccines
As mentioned earlier, misinformation has led to a distrust in vaccines, particularly the COVID-19 vaccine. On top of that, parents have grown more concerned than ever before about vaccinating their children, though there are plenty of benefits to doing so. Before there was better access to telehealth services, individuals often turned to the internet for answers to their questions and concerns surrounding COVID-19. Unfortunately, many online resources and even some news outlets spread false information and facts, which only heightens paranoia and distrust.
However, with telemedicine, we can now more easily set up a digital appointment with our doctors when we have questions or concerns. This allows medical professionals to ease our concerns and provide us with more accurate and trusted information surrounding the disease and the vaccines. And naturally, when fears are alleviated, and people have the guidance they need, they feel more safe and comfortable receiving the vaccine.
Telehealth services have also enabled a more equitable distribution of the vaccine to populations that typically face barriers. This includes lower-income individuals, the elderly, and marginalized communities. Black and Latino individuals and communities have particularly faced hardships where access to healthcare is concerned.
Vulnerable and marginalized populations face barriers such as lack of transportation and access to nearby healthcare facilities, health insurance coverage, and inflexible work and family obligations. However, with mobile telehealth, the services can “come to them” and be more flexible around their schedule. Instead of limiting access to vaccines in health care facilities, telehealth has enabled vaccine administration at more accessible sites such as schools, churches, pharmacies, mobile vans, and even in residential homes.
More Data on Vaccine Efficacy
Data collection is a significant benefit of telemedicine. Digital health services and applications allow us to collect data to help medical professionals and scientists make more informed decisions and improvements going forward. Additionally, the more information we have about vaccines, the better informed we are, which boosts trust in vaccine efficacy.
For example, epidemiologists who study infectious diseases and epidemics can use data collected from telehealth to further their studies and research. This can have a significant impact on the future of medicine and can help in our efforts to address and tackle contagious diseases and pandemics.
The Future of Telehealth
As telemedicine grows, so does the future of medicine. Advancements in telehealth technology benefit the distribution of vaccines and have the power to reshape the healthcare industry as a whole. The most considerable improvement is better access to healthcare services, especially for vulnerable populations.
Things like mental health counseling, doctor’s visits, treatment plans, specialist consultations, access to lab results, and health condition monitoring all become easier and more accessible with telehealth services. This may even change the way insurers provide coverage, making access to specific healthcare services more affordable.
In the long run, mobile telehealth services will benefit the entirety of healthcare, including efficacy and access for all vaccinations, not just the COVID-19 vaccine. With better access to professional support and guidance, individuals can more easily take control of their health and make more informed decisions, especially where vaccinations for children are concerned.