Telemedicine is Here to Stay
Last updated: March 2021
Telemedicine is a concept that the medical community has been trying to figure out for some time. At first, telemedicine, or telehealth as it is often called, was thought to be good for people with Parkinson’s who live in rural areas for whom it is a hardship to travel a great distance to see a doctor.
The patients would be able to see their doctors more regularly without the stress of travel, saving the patients a lot of time and money (transportation and possible hotel stays). In most places, this was just talk and never implemented. In many cases, the providers and insurance companies could not figure out how to make it work.
All of that changed with the Pandemic. With patients scrambling to see their healthcare providers after COVID-19, telemedicine became a much more viable alternative to in-clinic visits. Why should you submit yourself to possible exposure sitting in the waiting room with other patients? Now, with Zoom everywhere in our lives, it all makes much more sense.
What is Telehealth?
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines telehealth as the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration. Technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications.1
How to prepare
- Prepare for your visit like you would for an in-person visit to your doctor.
- Ensure that you’re set up for the visit with enough light and minimal background noise.
- Always try to log on a few minutes early so that you are ready when your provider signs on.
- Make a list of questions and concerns.
- If you need someone to be there with you who is calling in from another computer, check with your provider ahead of time to make sure it will work.
- Take notes to make sure you did not miss getting any of your questions answered.
Starting in March, several of my doctors started using telehealth for our visits. For visits with the psychologist at UCLA, it was perfect. I could take my iPad anywhere I felt like it, to sit and chat with him. We could be out of town and I would still be able to make my appointment. I could bring my husband into the conversation if needed and we did not have to deal with traffic and parking. No complaints here.
Frequency of visits
In the last year, I have visited with my movement disorders specialist 3 times and have my 4th visit coming up next month. In this case, I feel that 4 virtual appointments in a row are too many. My doctor said that the benefit of these visits is that she can see me in my home environment, to which I agree wholeheartedly.
However, given the nuances of Parkinson’s, I don’t think she or any doctor can adequately evaluate any stiffness or other not-so-obvious symptoms online. Ideally, I would like to see her every other visit in the office, with telehealth visits in between.
After nearly a year of experimenting with telehealth, it seems like it is here to stay. The doctors and patients seem to like it. The healthcare providers and the insurance companies have figured out their end of this. Once again Pandemic has brought major changes into another aspect of our lives. This change is good and it looks like it may last well beyond the Pandemic. Welcome to the future of medicine!
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