With the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been practicing physical distancing and staying at home as much as possible. Many of us have postponed or cancelled in-person medical appointments. But although we are trying to be cautious, we should not neglect our own health needs. Telehealth has become an increasingly popular option during this pandemic, as a safe way to continue managing our health.
Part 1: What happens at appointments
Telehealth appointments utilize video calls and similar technology to connect a health care provider to their patients. These virtual appointments allow health care providers to continue providing high quality care remotely, without patients physically needing to be present at their office. While telehealth cannot replace all appointments and examinations, it has grown in popularity as a new tool that can assist and enhance the relationship between a patient and a doctor. For more information on telehealth, read Keiro’s factsheet.
Keiro asked health care professionals in our community who are providing telehealth services about what these virtual appointments are like, and the benefits and challenges related to telehealth. We would like to thank physical therapist Dr. Natsuko Watanabe of Rising Sun Physical Therapy & Wellness in Newport Beach, and Keiro Board member and family medicine physician Dr. Claire Koga of Kaiser Permanente for making time to be interviewed.
What suggestions do you have for your patients as they prepare for their first telehealth appointment?
- Schedule an appointment. Ask your health care provider if a telehealth option is available. When making an appointment, the office may screen you beforehand on the reason for your visit.
- Wear comfortable clothing. Moving around during this appointment is no different than an in-person appointment, so be sure to wear clothing to allow for that.
- Good internet connection. Ensure that the bandwidth through your internet provider is of high quality so there are no connection issues.
- Good microphone and camera quality. Poor quality can make it difficult for the patient to receive care because of visibility or audio issues.
- Proper space and equipment. Have room to move and show your doctor what is giving you pain, as well as demonstrate treatment tips given. Prepare all necessary items for your appointment, such as a notebook, pen, computer, headphones, etc.
- Familiarize yourself with the telehealth platform. The use of the software may be challenging. If possible, practice ahead of time how to sign in and out of these virtual appointments.
- Prepare questions and fill out forms. Fill out any required forms prior to the appointment, and have a list of questions and goals ready. Having this handy will help you be better prepared and have a more focused appointment.
What can your patients expect during their telehealth appointment?
- Provider access to past medical history, visits, and medications: In most cases, your health care provider will have secured online access to your medical records. However, they may need to clarify some information with you during your appointment.
- Examination and Evaluation: A detailed intake and evaluation will be done.
- Physical Therapy: The therapist may ask patients to demonstrate specific movements and to verbalize detailed restrictions. These initial steps allow them to assess patients’ ailments or dysfunction to provide proper treatment.
- Physician: The doctor may ask questions to clarify the location and nature of the problem, such as asking to press a certain part of the body or perform certain actions like coughing or moving a part of the body. Depending on the situation, they may ask you to send photos of the source of pain as well.
- Treatment and follow up:
- Physical Therapy: The therapist may demonstrate therapeutic exercises the patient can do at home such as range of motion and strengthening activities, stretches, self-mobilization techniques, postural awareness, and more.
- Physician: The doctor will likely make recommendations on treatment and follow up. However, some health issues may require an in-person appointment.
- Answer questions: With the nature of how the examination is conducted, patients are encouraged to give detailed information and ask questions about their health needs.
What happens after a telehealth appointment?
- Write down your next steps: After your appointment, write down any key points as well as your next steps – this could include picking up and taking prescriptions, practicing exercises, or scheduling a follow up appointment. If you need clarification, be sure to contact your provider so that you understand what you are supposed to do.
- Check your online health care portal: Many health systems have online patient portals where you can schedule appointments, see your lab results, and communicate with your doctors through online messaging. Check on what options are available for you to stay connected with your doctor.
Keiro Call To Action: If you have not already, reach out to your doctors and other health care providers to see if they offer telehealth appointments. It is vital that we all continue to manage our own health during this pandemic, even if our concerns may seem less urgent.
Rising Sun Physical Therapy’s Physical Therapists promote Optimal Health and Wellness through education, advanced manual therapy, and structured mobility and strengthening programs. Located in Newport Beach, their therapists are dedicated to providing personalized care that fits the patient’s individual needs taking into consideration the patients’ occupation, lifestyle, budget, etc. for more information, visit https://www.risingsunphysicalrehab.com/.