I hope this blog finds you all healthy and safe. We greatly appreciate everyone practicing social distancing, as it keeps you well, decreases Corona spread, and ultimately (and selfishly) keeps fewer people in the hospital or our office who are sick or carriers thus reducing our chances of getting sick or spreading disease. This blog will be short and sweet and focus on the benefits of virtual visits. Before I start, can we all promise that we will retire the use of the terms “social distancing” and “new normal” when Covid is finally out of our lives?!? (I feel like “new normal” is used even more than “here for the right reasons” on any given season of The Bachelor. I can’t take it!!)
So, at Kamm McKenzie we are doing many virtual visits now. How does this work? Who is a candidate? What can you do virtually instead of in person? Let’s do our best to answer these questions. We are here to help you, and we really need our Kamm McKenzie patients support us as well during this crazy time.
How does a virtual visit work?
Most of what we are doing so far has been telemedicine only; ie via the telephone. We can get a detailed history from you, ask follow-up questions, come up with a plan together, and decide on appropriate follow-up. And we can often do all of that without laying eyes on you. Some visits are done through any of a variety of video chat apps (FaceTime, Zoom, etc). HIPPA rules are more flexible during this pandemic to allow the use of these products. I personally have not needed to virtually examine anyone’s private areas yet. I have used FaceTime to examine incisions post operative, rashes on abdomens, etc.
When you are given an appointment time for a virtual visit, a nurse or medical assistant will be calling you first. They are consenting you for a virtual visit and then getting the basic gist of the concern so that they can open the correct visit template in our computer system. They will then let your doctor or nurse practitioner know you are ready and he/she will call you when it is your turn. Just like if you were at the office this may not happen at the exact minute of your appointment. You will have your appointment and then can call/text (yes, we have secure HIPPA compliant texting now) our scheduling line, 919-781-6200, to make any suggested future appointments (real or virtual).
Who is a candidate?
Right now almost all of our virtual visits are gynecological and we can handle MANY of your concerns virtually (see below). We have done a limited amount of OB virtually, usually in special situations where someone needs to be on serious quarantine to protect us and our patients. In addition, you need to be an established patient for most insurance companies to cover a virtual visit. (At the time of writing this blog, only those with Cigna can be “seen” as a new patient virtually.) We hope this changes, as we would love to offer this service to all new patients who have a concern that would not require much of a physical exam.
What can we “see” you for virtually?
We can do a significant amount of GYN care virtually. Many concerns can be addressed based on your current description, your known medical conditions, and your past history. Things like vaginal discharge or itching, painful urination, anxiety/depression (we all have heightened anxiety right now, am I right?), rashes, contraception questions, hot flashes, fertility concerns, breast complaints, decreased libido, etc can often be done virtually. Now if we decide, for example, treatment is necessary for a UTI and you call 3 days later and are not feeling better, then an in person appointment to actually check your urine would most certainly be warranted. But most people will get better, thus limiting traffic to the office and “flattening the curve”.
I can imagine we can do some initial discussions for concerns like irregular bleeding, pelvic pain, or postmenopausal bleeding, and other more complex issues as well. Many of these will need imaging like a pelvic sonogram at some point. We can at least get your history, discuss an evaluation, review the possible diagnosis, and discuss the action plan. This is often what is done at an initial visit for these concerns already. We could then schedule the appropriate sonogram and appointment after, saving a visit to the office.
In addition, if you opted, like many women, to reschedule your annual exam, but you had some things to discuss with your provider that was outside the scope of basic health maintenance, make yourself a virtual appointment! We can most likely address that problem(s) better in a separate visit than trying to address it during a basic health maintenance visit anyway. You could potentially get some relief or piece of mind now rather than waiting a couple of months for a post-COVID annual! We would be helping you and you would be helping us.
Let’s get through this together. #flattenthecurve