This new way to see your doctor could be just the thing for you.
After more than 30 years working with Telemedicine, including supervising more than 12,000 consultations with doctors in the developing world, I finally had a telemedicine appointment of my own. My cardiologist’s office called three days before a scheduled appointment saying they were switching my in-person examination to a virtual one. They would contact me before the meeting with instructions on how to connect.
At 11:00 o’clock on Monday, I sat at my computer waiting. The call came on my phone at 11:38 AM. Was this my time in the “waiting room”? Immediately I began speaking to my doctor who was using FaceTime; they skipped the “get ready” part. The resolution was excellent. I could see my cardiologist clearly and in the upper corner I saw his view of me.
I have been a patient for more than 20 years and this was a routine 6-month follow up visit. Back in 2000, I had successful open-heart bypass surgery and on a recent exam he noted a murmur at the aortic valve.
My doctor asked how I was doing in general and I told him about some shortness of breath with exercise. He wanted to know whether there was swelling of my ankles, fatigue, if shortness of breath occurred at rest, or if it ever woke me. I said no to all of these and that I feel good with no change in my weight or appetite. My blood pressure, taken by myself with a device purchased at a drugstore, was 126/70. My pulse was 78.
Based on these symptoms and what the doctor knew from my records, my mitral stenosis (heart valve obstruction) could be worsening. He told me the outflow blockage may be the reason for my shortness of breath. The next step was obtaining further testing with an echocardiogram and blood tests. His office would call to schedule appointments for these tests in a few days and he would contact me when the results were in.
I asked him about the treatment options. My doctor advised that I could be a candidate for a mitral valve replacement, if the testing indicated, but we would discuss that later. He assured me that this is a successful procedure and explained that the new valve is threaded through a vessel accessed in the leg.
Our FaceTime visit lasted approximately 7 minutes. A few minutes later, his office called me and I scheduled the echocardiogram and blood testing for the next morning.
My first telemedicine appointment was successful. I don’t think a personal visit could be more satisfying. These were the same diagnostic tests he would schedule if I saw him in the office. That I was a returning patient, knew the doctor well and he knew me, all contributed significantly to this success.
A telemedicine appointment might not be the best way to conduct a new patient encounter, except in an emergency, but for me, this follow up was perfect. Many doctor visits could be done in this way, especially when an established doctor patient relationship exists. Virtual visits are one of the changes spurred by the virus that likely will continue for years to come.
My prediction is that in the future as many as 10% of visits with the doctor will be virtual. Return visits, where the doctor knows the patient and patients are comfortable with the process, are best suited for telemedicine appointments.
To finish this story, the echocardiogram was normal and there is no need to consider a heart valve replacement. Good news! After several text messages, we decided to continue with a pulmonary consult. Good communication and prompt action accomplished a lot in a short time with minimal expense and effort.
By Savvy Senior
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