In Your Prime: Telehealth is the new house call for seniors

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Years ago, doctors routinely visited patients in their own homes. When they could no longer fit their equipment in a portable black bag, such visits became increasingly rare. But with new technology comes a new version of the house call.

Welcome to telehealth, where medical providers use communication technology to meet with their patients wherever they are. Though the technology has existed for a while, the coronavirus pandemic has made telehealth visits a popular, safe and convenient way to see your health care provider without leaving home.

What is telehealth?

In a telehealth visit, you use your personal electronic device (smartphone, tablet or computer with an internet connection and video capability) to have a face-to-face appointment with your provider. “Most patients are pleasantly surprised by how easy it is,” says Dr. Melissa Butler, a primary care provider with Kettering Health Network.

A nurse contacts you ahead of time to explain the process, and about 10-15 minutes before your appointment, you receive an email or text message with a link. Simply click on the link to enter a virtual “waiting room” where your provider will join you. From there, your appointment will proceed much as it would in person, especially if it’s a routine check-up.

Efficient and convenient

“Many things we do don’t really require coming into the office,” says Kettering Health Network urologist Dr. David Hadley. Going over test results, monitoring medication changes, and following up on previous procedures are a few examples. Wellness visits and new patient exams also work well as telehealth appointments.

Telehealth visits can help manage diseases such as diabetes or hypertension that could get out of control if patients put off regular appointments. “Often, they cancel because it’s hard for them to come in,” Butler says, citing transportation or mobility issues, pain, and inclement weather as common causes. With a telehealth appointment, “all of those reasons are gone.”

Patients who live far away or who can’t easily schedule appointments during the business day also benefit from the convenience of telehealth visits. “They can call in on their smartphone during a break,” Butler says.

To help your telehealth appointment go smoothly:

  • Make sure you have the necessary equipment—a smartphone, tablet or computer with both audio and visual capability. “If you’ve been using your computer for Skype or Zoom visits with the grandkids, you have the capability,” says Butler.
  • If you aren’t entirely comfortable with the technology, practice ahead of time and/or ask a more tech-savvy family member to be present at your first visit.
  • Have with you anything you’d normally bring to an in-person appointment, such as medication lists, symptom notes and questions.
  • Choose a quiet location so you and your provider can hear each other clearly and without distraction.

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