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Monday Medical: Telehealth tips

Susan Cunningham
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Worried about COVID-19 but still need to see your doctor? Many health providers are now offering telehealth visits.

“It’s perfect for the current pandemic because we’re trying to keep distance between people, and when you go to a doctor’s office, you’re in closer contact with people,” said Dr. Jeff Chamberlain, an OB/GYN with UCHealth Women’s Care Clinics in Steamboat Springs and Craig. “With telehealth visits, we take away all that risk.”

Below, Chamberlain gives tips on taking advantage of virtual visits.

How does it work?

A telehealth visit is basically a video call with your medical provider.

Connecting to the video call can be as easy as clicking a link that takes you into a video meeting or logging into a patient portal.

“It’s a protected connection, so it’s confidential and private,” Chamberlain said.

You can use your smartphone, tablet or computer. For a video conference, your device will need a camera and microphone.

“For people who are less savvy with technology, we can also meet over a telephone call,” Chamberlain said.

Recent changes in Colorado have made telehealth more accessible for patients, and many insurance providers are covering telehealth visits just as a regular office visit. To be sure that’s the case with your insurance, call and confirm.

Can OB/GYN patients use telehealth?

Over the course of pregnancy, a woman usually sees her doctor 10 to 12 times. Telehealth visits are taking the place of some of those visits, especially in the first and second trimesters for low-risk pregnancies.

“We see people more frequently in person at the end of the pregnancy, but there are still things we can screen for over the phone,” Chamberlain said.

Postpartum visits lend themselves well to telehealth, even for women who had a C-section, as the provider can examine the incision site over video.

“If there are any problems, then the patient comes in,” Chamberlain said. “We do a lot of phone calls to make sure we’re not missing people who need to come in.”

Routine women’s health visits are typically being pushed out a bit, but providers can help refill prescriptions when necessary.

“If somebody’s having a lot of bleeding or pain, we’re still seeing them in person,” Chamberlain said.

Are there benefits of telehealth?

Besides helping to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, a telehealth visit can be convenient, especially at a time that can be busy with work and online schooling. People who live an hour or two away don’t have to make a long drive, and parents don’t have to arrange for child care.

“Every time I start one of these meetings, I’ll see the patient smiling — we’re all thinking, ‘This is cool,’” Chamberlain said. “I think this will be one thing people push for more, once things go back to normal.”

How can I make the most of my visit?

Go to a place that is quiet and has a good Wi-Fi connection.

“As amusing as it is to see children and pets running around, it can be distracting for the patient,” Chamberlain said.

Every now and then, a connection issue may crop up — if that’s the case, the patient can always switch to a phone call with the provider.

As with any visit with a health care provider, try to list out your symptoms and concerns, as well as any questions, beforehand.

And if you’re not sure whether an issue warrants a telehealth or in-person visit, don’t hesitate to call.

“Don’t feel like you’re going to call and the doctor’s office is going to say, ‘No, we can’t talk right now, call back in three months,’” Chamberlain said. “We’re spending a lot of time with patients over the phone, helping them figure out the best next steps. If you have a question, always call.”

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at cunninghamsbc@gmail.com.


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