As the country begins piecing itself back together in our fight against COVID-19, telemedicine is a health resource that likely isn’t going anywhere. If you or your healthcare provider are still trying to limit in-person contact, telemedicine is a great tool to stay on track with your healthcare.

If you’ve never used telemedicine before, it’s really simple. The OAC reached out to the Co-Chair of its Access to Care Committee, Lloyd Stegemann, MD, FASMBS, for some helpful information to guide you. Dr. Stegemann is a bariatric surgeon who is making use of telemedicine in his own practice. Here’s what he says.

Telemedicine FAQ’s

What Platforms Are Used in Telemedicine?

The most common platforms are Zoom, Facetime (for iPhone users), Duo (for Android users) and phone calls. Some websites have their own platforms that they are using as well.

How Does Telemedicine Work with Insurance?

Many states and insurance carriers traditionally limit telemedicine visits to specific situations, but they are currently treating telemedicine visits just like a regular visit due to the Coronavirus pandemic. My office is contacting the patient to ask how they would like to do the visit. We then take their insurance co-pay over the phone just as we would do at a regular visit.

How Do I Find Out if My Provider is Offering Telemedicine?

Contact their office or look on their website. You may have also received emails about switching to telemedicine along with what protocols their office is following.

How Are Pre-exam Vitals Done? (Weight, temperature, blood pressure, etc.)

This is the hardest part of doing a telemedicine visit. We ask patients to weigh themselves prior to the visit. If they are in the early post-op phase of bariatric surgery, or we are monitoring their blood pressure after starting them on weight control medications, then we also ask them to get a set of vitals before the visit. If they don’t have the equipment to do this at home, we ask them to use the equipment/machines at their nearest Walmart, grocery store or pharmacy.

What if My Provider isn’t Offering Telemedicine?

If all you need is a routine checkup, you might be able to put it off for a while. If you have an issue that needs to be addressed soon, call their office. The office is most likely offering visits somehow, as I don’t know anyone who has completely shut the doors. If they have, their voicemail should instruct you on how you can still get care until they are open again.

What Can Telemedicine Do that a Regular Doctor Visit Will Do? What Are the Limitations?

With a telemedicine visit, you can still see and talk to your physician. They can listen to your needs and concerns, then direct you further regarding treatment. They can still order labs, x-rays, medications, etc. However, they can’t do a physical exam if you have a particular pain, a lump, a rash, etc. It can also feel impersonal at times because you aren’t in the room together . If the internet signal is poor, the audio and video can become difficult.

Any More Tips or Things to Know?  

Treat a telemedicine visit just like you would a regular visit:

  • Find a quiet area where you won’t be interrupted by other people, kids, animals, etc.
  • Keep in mind that if you play the audio out loud, without headphones, people around you will be able to hear what you and your physician are saying to one another.
  • Put together a list of questions that you want answered during the visit to make sure you get the most out of it.
  • If you think you are going to need medication, have your pharmacy phone number on hand so your provider can call in the prescription.

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