April 14, 2021

What is Telewellness?

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Through the past year, many individuals have been staying home to support public safety measures and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our communities. This was hard on almost everyone: we missed life events, hugging our family members, and more. 


Thankfully, current technological advances allowed most individuals to continue their lives with a few adjustments. No grocery shopping? Use a grocery delivery app. Miss your family? Send them a FaceTime. Need to see your doctor? This is where telehealth--and telewellness comes in. 


But, what is telewellness? And how can telwellness improve our overall health and happiness?

What is telehealth and how does telewellness fit in? 


Telehealth includes a wide variety of technologies and services that health care professionals utilize to improve the entire health care delivery system, including both clinical and non-clinical services, such as provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education. 


Put simply, telehealth is a collection of means and methods that deliver care and education to patients and caregivers through technology. 


Telehealth covers a variety of facets, including: 


1. Telemedicine: 


Telemedicine is specifically the clinical application of technology while treating patients during clinical services. Health care professionals provide these services with electronic communications and software, rather than an in-person visit at an office or hospital. 


This can save time and travel for both the patients and the doctors, and can provide services to those that may otherwise find it challenging to access healthcare. Studies have shown telemedicine allows for better long-term care and increased patient satisfaction. 


Using two-way messaging or live streaming communication, some ways people use telemedicine include: 

  • Follow-up visits
  • Chronic condition management
  • Medication management
  • Specialist consultations
  • Access to medical records 

2. Telecare: 


Telecare is the use of communication technology to provide remote care support from a distance. Unlike telehealth and telemedicine, telecare is automatic, meaning patients can be continuously monitored for improvement or decline. 


Telecare practices minimize health risks while allowing patients to continue living in their own homes. This is especially beneficial for older adults who are trying to keep independence as they age. 


Some examples of telecare include: 

  • Virtual caregivers: Virtual caregivers, like Addison, a 3D caregiver, have an interactive speech platform that comes with the ability to collect vitals, report emergencies, and monitor health decline. 
  • Virtual assistants: Virtual assistants can help answer medical questions, call for medical assistance, be used as medication reminder systems, or as a contact system for one’s family. 
  • Monitors: Heart rate, blood pressure, and other monitors can be continuous tracking patients’ health levels and alerting family members or caregivers. 


3. Last but not least, Telewellness: 


Telewellness is another aspect of telehealth that encompasses other facets of health that don’t necessarily fall into the “telemedicine” or “telecare” categories. 


Telewellness is the technology that helps us support our overall wellness from home. This can include your physical health, mental health, and social health. 


Telewellness encompasses and can include: 

  • Online fitness classes and apps
  • Facetiming with friends 
  • Virtual meditation and mindfulness applications 
  • Online meet-up events
  • Sleep quality management
  • Much, much more

So, what is Telewellness? 


Though people often focus on medicine and care when it comes to telehealth, telewellness is a huge part of our health because it supports all realms of our health. 


In particular, telewellness is about our complete wellbeing, including our happiness and life satisfaction


Though stay-at-home and social distancing requirements may have helped our physical health this past year, it also had an impact on our mental and social health. Many individuals--particularly those in older demographics--suffered from loneliness and social isolation


This is where telewellness shines: it helps us stay healthy physically, mentally, and socially by using technology to keep us active, social, and mentally supported. 


Like other aspects of telehealth, telewellness has many benefits including: 

  • Convenience & accessibility: Telewellness allows those with limited mobility or accessibility to reach a plethora of resources right at their fingertips. 
  • Reduced healthcare spending: telewellness is particularly beneficial because it can help prevent other health issues. When you’re working on all parts of your health, you’re better able to manage comorbidities that might occur from illnesses or issues, and prevent them from happening in the first place. 
  • Increased independence: Particularly for older adults, technology can help them stay active and live independently for longer. By putting a focus on prevention and one’s overall wellness, it can make it easier to live longer, happier lives. 

Why is Social Health so Important?


When it comes to health & wellness, one’s physical health and abilities are often at the forefront. In fact, it’s only recently that mental health is more often addressed in society, though mental health stigmas are still prevalent. 

 

However, our overall health and wellness have several facts, with physical, social, and mental health each being a part. (Intellectual, spiritual, vocational, and dimensional are also dimensions of our wellness). While both physical and mental health are hugely important, social health great impacts our health too. 


Our social health and wellness is measured by the relationships and connections we have to others in the world around us. Social relationships help us survive and thrive in today’s society by supporting our overall health. 

 

Social health includes

  • Maintaining healthy relationships
  • Enjoying being with others
  • Developing friendships and intimate relationships 
  • Caring about others & letting others care about you
  • Contributing to society and your community 


When we don’t have a strong social system, many other aspects of our health are impacted. In fact, there are several serious health effects that loneliness and social isolation can cause or worsen, particularly as we age. 


Lower levels of social health is associated with higher rates of: 

  1. Depression, anxiety, and suicide 
  2. Heart disease, heart failure, and stroke 
  3. Dementia 
  4. Premature death 


Health and wellness is incredibly interconnected, so managing all parts of it through any means possible--including technological advances--will help individuals and society as a whole. 

Telewellness is Here to Stay 


Finding solutions to prevent social isolation is something we need to work on as society as a whole, because it affects everyone. According to a 2018 national survey by Cigna, loneliness levels have reached an all-time high, with nearly half of U.S. adults reporting they sometimes or always feel alone, and 40% reporting they sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they feel isolated.


Realizing the impact of loneliness and spreading awareness on the need to prevent and reduce social isolation increases the chance solutions will be implemented. 


Staying social and active is one of the most important things we can do to support our health, especially as we age. And as technology continues to advance, the advantages of telewellness will only continue to improve our overall health, happiness, and life satisfaction. 


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