Living in the Age of Telehealth
Last updated: May 2020
I recently had the opportunity to have a telehealth appointment with my rheumatologist. I was happy that my doctor’s office offered this as an option at this time as a result of the pandemic.
However, this is a first time offering of this type of appointment, so as with all new things, there are a few things to consider since we now find ourselves living in the age of telehealth.
Telehealth & psoriatic arthritis
Before the call, I did feel kind of nervous despite feeling comfortable with technology and participating in virtual calls. I wasn’t sure how it will go. Will it be as involved as a traditional appointment or treated as if it is just a passing type of check-in?
I think it was important for me to try and match up to my expectation with the reality of the limitations of a telehealth appointment.
The technology of telehealth
The technology part of the visit was very simple. I was sent an internet link via text that gave me access to a secure online video connection. The doctor’s office did a good job of making sure that I knew that the link was both private and secure.
Once I saw my doctor looking back at me, I was able to relax a little. Both the picture and the sound quality were pretty good which was a positive for me. However, there are some inherent limitations that come with a virtual-only appointment.
What are the limitations of telehealth appointments?
That being said, there are certain difficulties tied to a virtual visit. Obviously they can’t virtually check your weight, blood pressure, and pulse.
But chances are, if you are working to manage your psoriatic arthritis, you tend to keep tabs on these stats anyway. Which leads me to one of my main concerns about my telehealth appointment.
The quality of the appointment
I personally felt like it was a little difficult to really clearly get my points across without being able to easily process my doctor’s non-verbal cues.
You will know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever been on a Zoom call or GoTo Meeting. I’m talking about the sorts of awkward moments where you are not sure who should speak, type of moments. (Almost as awkward as that sentence!) According to the appointment “recap” that the telehealth website sent me, the whole appointment lasted just over 13 minutes.
The shift in energy
Well, despite it being a bit more awkward than I expected it to be, I think it was worth it, even if there wasn’t a global pandemic going on. It was more like an appointment to sort of “check off the box and say we did it,” kind of thing.
Despite the fact that I believe I have a good relationship with my doctor (we’ve been together for years) it did feel a little awkward, I’m not going to lie.
The reality of the appointment
Really when it comes down to it, telehealth merely limits up-close examination and the physical manipulation of joints and ligaments by the doctor.
If you are considering a change of meds or investigating the possibility of a new diagnosis or complications, then you probably want to pass on the telehealth option.
Prioritizing telehealth appointments
If you are in a situation where you are kind of cruising along, checking off the boxes in disease management, it is certainly a great option.
Not to mention if you really need an appointment but find yourself with a cold or otherwise in a situation where it is very difficult for you to safely get out. Then I would say a telehealth appointment would be pretty close to perfect.
Tips to get the most out of your telehealth appointment
However, all in all, I’d say that telehealth certainly has its place especially among those of us who are immunocompromised living in a post-pandemic world.
And like everything with psoriatic arthritis, it is a balancing act, weighing the benefits and advantages with the risks and drawbacks. Here are a few tips for your next appointment.
- Think logistics: Check your internet connection reliability and speed. If your doctor’s office requires you to use an app or particular device, be sure to check the details in advance so you don’t become nervous due to logistics.
- Practice makes perfect: If you’ve never done a video type of call, you may want to do a few “practice” calls with family or friends. This will allow you to at least be a little more comfortable with video communication as well as seeing and hearing yourself on a screen.
- Check with your insurance: As with pretty much anything in this day and age, it certainly bears repeating to remind everyone to check with your insurance. There are potential limitations on the types of visits to your doctor that may or may not be covered. Don’t rely on your doctor’s office to do the legwork here.
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