An Unexpected Telehealth Visit
Last updated: June 2020
In late April 2020, I had an office visit scheduled with my rheumatologist. I actually considered postponing the appointment because my psoriatic arthritis was being well managed. I really didn’t want to go out during our state’s Stay Home Stay Safe orders during the coronavirus outbreak. I just wanted to err on the side of caution.
However, about 10 days before the visit, I started to have a lot of pain in my lower back. As far as I could tell, I hadn’t injured it, so I thought it might be my arthritis rearing its ugly head. I decided to keep the scheduled appointment.
New intake questionnaire
With circumstances, the way they were in the current heightened alertness of the virus, my rheumatologist’s office implemented a new intake procedure to fill out paperwork via an app prior to my visit. I downloaded the app and set up my profile as directed.
It was pretty easy to navigate the screens and fill out the insurance and other information. There was even a questionnaire that asked about overall health:
Do you feel well? Have you had a fever, cough, or trouble breathing in the past week? Have you been in contact with anyone known to have COVID-19? Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19?
To all of these questions, I answered “no,” and felt confident I would see the doctor a few days later.
A Change in Answers
On the morning of my appointment, I woke up with a scratchy throat and watery eyes. I had no fever and was pretty sure it was just allergies. It was the first night of spring that I slept with the windows open.
I called the rheumatologist’s office to let them know that the answers to my intake questionnaire changed. I was expecting to reschedule the appointment to a later date, and honestly, I wasn’t too upset by this, as my back was already feeling much better.
The scheduler told me I definitely cannot come in the office with my symptoms, but we should try telehealth for this visit, rather than rescheduling.
From In-Person to Telehealth
I don’t consider myself technology challenged, but I would say I’m technology apprehensive. When it comes to my health, I like to be in control. When it comes to trying out new technology, I definitely feel like I am NOT in control.
So, you can understand why I was unsure about a telehealth visit, but I put my fears aside. I decided this would be a good way to get on board with what I figured with be pretty normal practice for the future.
The office scheduler said I should receive an email and text that would give me instructions and a link for the visit. She also warned me that technology can be stubborn at times, so they will do the visit via FaceTime if the app and link didn’t work.
The Waiting Room
Fifteen minutes prior to my scheduled appointment, I used the app and link to log into the virtual waiting room. There I could add my credit card for copay charges related to the visit. So far, so good.
As the appointment time neared, I got a message on the screen that stated, “Your health care provider will be with you shortly.” Makes sense. I have to wait in a waiting room in person, so of course, I should have to wait a little for the telehealth visit, too.
The only problem: It had the dial that just kept spinning and spinning. The message was still there, but I couldn’t be sure that the app didn’t freeze. I worried I did something wrong, but I continued to wait, 20 minutes in total.
Seeing my Doctor
Sure enough, there was no app issues and technology worked correctly. My doctor entered the room and the visit started.
It was like any other visit: talked about my health, talked about the virus, checked my bloodwork (which was absent because someone forgot to go get her labs!), asked about refills and current medication, and asked about new symptoms or bothersome ones.
The only thing that was different was that my rheumatologist could not give me a physical examination. Of course, that was disappointing, but under the circumstances, understandable. He said that he wanted to see me again in July – in person – and he wanted me to get my labs done this time.
Have you tried telehealth?
In the end, telehealth really was no big deal. Everything went as planned, and I would definitely do this again – not all the time, but it worked in a pinch. It was convenient, easy and the doctor answered all of my questions. Other than the physical examination, I don’t feel like I missed anything important.
Have you tried telehealth with your rheumatologist? How did your visit go?
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