Tips for Telemedicine

With physical distancing required during the pandemic, we’re adjusting to many changes in our life. One is the postponement of non-urgent medical visits and procedures. Another is adopting telemedicine for doctor’s appointments.

When is a telemedicine visit useful?

Obviously, telemedicine won’t work for a dental cleaning or foot treatment with the podiatrist. But they can work for many other important health discussions:

  • Talking over test results;
  • Discussing treatment;
  • Bringing up questions about health maintenance; and
  • Deciding if any new health symptoms are urgent and important enough for an in-person visit.

Many of us are already accustomed to ongoing discussions with our doctors. In my case, I can message my rheumatologist with questions or if I need a medication refill. He will call me with test results or just to check up on me when I’m not feeling well.

Postponing in-person medical visits

Right before the pandemic starting shutting everything down, my doctor instructed me to begin working from home and to stay inside. He also said, “I don’t want to see you!” Which was a sweet way of saying: “Stay safe and don’t visit my office!”

With this guidance, I canceled my in-person visit and hunkered down at home. Then a couple of weeks later my rheumatologist reached out and suggested that we touch base with a telemedicine appointment. His office contacted me and scheduled a time when I would log into a video portal to see my doctor.

Preparing for the telemedicine visit

Video calling my doctor was new for me! My first anxiety was: “Will I be able to figure out the technology to make it work?” My second concern was: “How do I prepare for a telemedicine appointment?”

Taking time to setup up for the video call

A day before my appointment, the doctor’s office sent me a link and instructions on joining the video call. I did my homework by setting up the app and testing the list to make sure I could get it working. Then I logged in early before the appointment, just to make sure I had the technology working. (Don’t worry! It’s not hard to figure out!)

Making a list questions to discuss

For the second issue about preparing, I realized it was much like my usual appointments. A week or so before seeing my doctor, I start writing up a list of questions or topics to discuss with him. It may be questions about a new symptom or a change in severity of usual symptoms. It may be a question about my treatment regimen. Or something like a referral to physical therapy or wheelchair assessment.

To be honest, I’ve actually started keeping a running list of questions or topics to discuss with my doctor! If I don’t keep one going, I forget stuff and kick myself later when I do remember!

Prioritizing my current health needs

I took a look at this list before talking with my doctor and realized a number of them are things that I have to place on pause during the pandemic situation. For example, it is time for me to look into ordering a new wheelchair and I was planning on asking my doctor for a referral to get assessed and measured for a new wheelchair. Since this is not essential and requires several visits to the office where measurements are taken and close contact to do this, plus I am OK for the meantime, I decided to pause this activity until the crisis passes.

Considering the current situation and limits to getting out and about, I decided the focus for this telemedicine needed to focus on maintaining my health, checking in about my rheumatoid arthritis, and discussing an emergency plan with my doctor should I get sick. This discussion was exactly what I needed!

Seeing a smiling face helps

It was great to see my doctor’s kind, smiling face for a few minutes and to check-in. I was reassured by him that I am doing all that I can do to stay safe and healthy. And I think I reassured him that I was doing OK. It also was helpful to confirm the plan if I get sick. Step one: call my doctor and keep him posted on how I am doing. Step two: follow his advice and get to my nearest hospital should my health have a severe decline.

While in reality, I have been participating in telemedicine for years over the Internet and phone, my game has now stepped up to another level. We may be seeing more practicing of telemedicine in the future and I am ready to be up to this new opportunity.

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