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How Helpful Are Virtual Appointments for Psoriatic Arthritis?

Depending on traffic, I live about 30-45 minutes away from my closest doctor. My furthest specialist is located over 2 hours away. Going there can turn into an all-day affair, or an overnight stay at a hotel due to traffic.

The two-hour drive that turned into a four-hour-and-30-minute drive due to an accident on the highway was the final straw. It made me a proponent for virtual appointments, which totally fell on deaf ears at all levels of my health care.

Are virtual appointments a new normal?

It wasn’t just healthcare providers who were not receptive to making virtual appointments a normal cog on the standard of care wheel. Health insurance providers needed to provide a billing code for the doctors to use.

Without a code, they cannot bill or get reimbursed. This is oversimplifying it, I know. There is a layer of ensuring privacy and data security to contend with, as well.

The benefit of virtual appointments

After that very long drive, I began to half-joke and half-campaigning for virtual appointments to become available at the specialist office located two hours away. Driving two hours in each direction for a 15-minute appointment, with psoriatic arthritis, was so painful at times.

Even my appointments that are a mere 30-45 minute drives without traffic, can become so uncomfortable. I’m grateful to have heated seats, they help. But they can only help so much.

The pandemic forced a lot of medical practices that were fighting the warm embrace of technology into a race against the clock. They rapidly adopted applications that had video conferencing technology. Almost every single one of my doctors uses a different program. Two of them share a program because their practices were bought by a hospital system.

My first virtual appointment

Have you ever heard the saying, “Be careful what you wish for, because you just may get it?” It feels fitting in this scenario. I asked for it and got it, but it has come with some detriments and hiccups.

For one of my first virtual appointments, I was stuck in the “lobby.” The doctor’s assistant called me from a line I didn’t recognize and I didn’t pick up. I was afraid I would kick myself out of the program. Eventually, my doctor called from his cell phone. The minute I saw his name pop up I knew there was a problem with the setup. We eventually got that straightened out.

I did my first few rheumatology appointments virtually and got labs performed in between. The labs came back stable, so the virtual check-ins felt justified. That is until I started experiencing random lower back, shoulder blade, and hip pain while walking. The new pain began a day or two after my summer virtual appointment.

When things began to fall apart

There is nothing more annoying than going to the rheumatologist’s office, having a great appointment, and falling apart the very next day. It felt equally annoying to experience this virtually.

I went through my physical checks and balances in regard to the pain and trying to figure out why it was happening. It became upsetting thinking that 3 appointments passed where my rheumatologist couldn’t view, touch, or test my joints. She has spotted issues before I was able to verbalize I was struggling with something.

Missing the in-person experience

My hip, shoulder blade, and lower back pain came on during different parts of a long walk around the neighborhood. The pain would dissipate for a while, but it would come back, especially if I went for a walk in the neighborhood.

I know the easy answer was to not go for a walk but not walking made other things hurt. After a couple of weeks of the pain, I sent an email to my rheumatologist. I noted how I felt fine during our virtual appointment, but this pain was increasing and I didn’t know what to do.

She ordered a round of x-rays and made our next appointment an in-person appointment. I was actually relieved. Despite apprehension for in-person appointments due to the virus numbers ticking up, at that point, I didn’t care. I went and did the x-rays and saw her a few weeks later.

More questions than answers

My x-rays were good, which gave me a certain level of peace of mind. At the in-office appointment, my rheumatologist was able to locate and feel the regions causing the pain. As with most things related to chronic inflammatory conditions, the reason for the pains remains a mystery. She advised me to stretch regularly and keep trying to move more.

Had the follow-up appointment been a virtual appointment, I think I would have left with more questions than answers.

What have your virtual appointments for psoriatic arthritis been like? Let us know in the comments below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Psoriatic-Arthritis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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