By George Farris
In the 2002 movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the bride’s father, Gus Portokalos, would choose a word from just about every conversation and point out its Greek origin – even if it didn’t have one. “Kimono is come from Greek word himona, is mean winter. What do you wear in the winter to stay warm? A robe. You see? Robe is kimono.”
But the word “tele” does have a Greek origin. It means “far off.” The word “tele” became popular in America when it was used to create new words connected to what were considered innovations amazing for their time. New words like “telegraph,” “teletype,” “telephone,” “telephoto” and, of course, “television” became part of our language and culture.
In 2020, “tele” has once again become a part of new words we’re using. “Telehealth,” “telemedicine” and “televisit” are words with which we are becoming more familiar.
Telemedicine, according to most sources, was developed to help deliver emergency medical treatment to wounded soldiers on the battlefield. When it was not possible to see a doctor quickly or safely, the doctor could see live video of the patient and relay instructions to a medical corpsman.
As phone and video technology improved, health care providers began to experiment with it for other uses, such as online office visits in which only a discussion is needed. In this way, minor ailments that could be described (or seen) got the patient in and out faster, with a prescription and without infecting others in the doctor’s waiting room.
The pandemic was a game changer
“The advent of the coronavirus pandemic has also significantly bolstered the adoption of telemedicine services, significantly changing both consumer as well as provider practices,” says MarketResearch.com. “Telemedicine and telehealth have emerged as a significant alternative for health care providers to improve care delivery, especially during a crisis.”
According to a study by BIS Research, the annual global telemedicine market is projected to grow from $21.55 billion at the end of 2019 to $123 billion by the end of 2030. A report in the American Medical Association newsletter says telehealth is up 53% and growing faster than any other place of care.
Telehealth is not restricted to medical visits. Mental health counselors have mainstreamed televisits, making it easier for clients to see therapists more frequently.
Of course, with telehealth innovation comes opportunity. One organization that appears to have seized that opportunity and executed it well is BetterHelp.com, an online counseling service. Its tagline is “You Deserve to Be Happy.” Who could argue with that?
BetterHelp offers access to licensed, experienced and accredited psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers and board-licensed professional counselors.
You can get counseling in four “tele” ways: exchanging messages with your counselor, chatting live, speaking over the phone with your counselor and video conferencing. You can use different ways at different times as you wish, based on your needs, availability and convenience.
Services BetterHelp offers generally are not covered by health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Instead, you sign up for a membership. The cost of counseling ranges from $60 to $80 per week and is based on your location, preferences and therapist availability. You can cancel your membership at any time for any reason.
Telemedicine, telehealth and televisits are here to stay. Consumers need to adjust. And medical marketing needs to catch up if they don’t want to be lost in the shuffle. As Gus would say, “‘Lost’ come from the Greek word ‘ittiménos,’ is mean ‘loser.’”