To keep our patients safe and to practice social distancing guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, University Health is offering “telemedicine” or virtual visits with doctors by video or phone. While this may not be the preferred appointment method that patients wish to have with their doctor, telemedicine can still provide an effective way of to communicate with your doctor.
Benefits of telemedicine appointments
Before the pandemic, many hospitals and doctors’ offices were using virtual visits to see their patients. Virtual visits are especially beneficial for patients who may not have access to medical care, such as those who live in remote geographical areas. They’re also extremely helpful for those who live in medically underserved communities where medical shortages exist.
In addition to providing access to medical services to patients, virtual visits are beneficial in other ways including:
- Telemedicine reduces healthcare costs by increasing the efficiency of care delivery and reducing the costs of transporting patients between medical care facilities.
- Virtual visits can enhance the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors can continue to see their patients in-person, while also offering them the flexibility and convenience that comes with virtual appointments.
- Virtual visits improve patient engagement in their healthcare. Virtual visits make it easier and more convenient for patients to actively engage with their doctor concerning their health.
- Increased healthcare provider job satisfaction. Doctors can more easily meet with patients which can reduce their job stress and improve their work-life balance.
A recent study by the National Library of Medicine also shows that patients who used virtual appointments:
- Had 38% fewer hospital admissions
- Were 63% more likely to spend fewer days in the hospital
- Showed more engagement in their healthcare
Virtual doctor appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic
To prevent the spread of novel coronavirus and to protect those who are most vulnerable to the virus, many people are choosing to stay home. While these social distancing practices are needed, it makes it hard for patients to receive the medical care they need since many can’t make it to their doctor’s office. To combat this, many healthcare systems, including University Health, are changing a number of outpatient appointments to virtual care appointments.
Before you have your virtual visit, University Health will:
- Assess if your condition is stable and then notify you that your appointment will be a virtual visit.
- Ask you to provide an email address and device for the visit. If the patient doesn’t have these things, then a phone call will be set up.
- If you do have an email and device, the virtual visit will be via Webex, which will allow you to see, hear and better interact with team members.
- You can use your cell phone, laptop, desktop computer or your tablet for the WebEx.
Make the most of your virtual care visit
To make sure you’re getting the right healthcare you need, you’ll want to be prepared for your virtual care visit. Here are a few things you can do to get the most out of your telemedicine appointment:
- Make a list of concerns. Write down a list of your concerns or issues so you don’t forget to chat with your doctor about something important during the visit.
- Keep track of any symptoms and when they started. Keep a record of any symptoms including when they occur, what triggers them and what alleviates them.
- Send photos of obvious symptoms. Send pictures of bites, rashes, moles and other issues that are causing visible symptoms to your doctor before the visit.
Additionally, make sure to:
- Call from a quiet place without any distractions.
- Be available at the appointment time to answer the call and avoid phone tag.
- Have any required medical equipment handy such as a thermometer, bathroom scale, etc. in case your doctor requests additional information from you.
Know when to go to the hospital
If you fall, break a bone, have heart condition symptoms or a severe illnesses, it may be necessary for you to go to the hospital. If you’re experiencing a medical emergency, don’t hesitate to come to the emergency room at University Hospital or call your doctor.
Please be aware, that although virtual visits support your healthcare, some visits need to be in person. This includes preventative visits such as Pap smears and colonoscopies, etc. If you need to schedule a visit with your doctor that can’t be done virtually, reach out to your healthcare provider to find out what their procedures are for seeing patients during the pandemic.
University Health is dedicated to providing the best, most comprehensive care for patients in South Texas and beyond. For more information about the novel coronavirus, visit universityhealthsystem.com/COVID19.