If there’s one sentiment we hear a lot lately, it’s “Thank God for the internet.” Whether it’s keeping us connected or keeping us sane, tech is truly the hero of quarantine.
Thanks to apps like Facetime and Zoom Conferencing (we call it “the other Zoom” around here), we’re able to see the smiles of our family, friends, and co-workers. Video games allow us to escape reality and explore new worlds from our couch. And while we highly recommend non-virtual activities such as reading a book or going for a jog, platforms like Netflix give us instant access to a lifetime’s worth of entertainment.
That said, even the internet has its limits. Certain things—such as seeing your orthopedist—are impossible to do virtually.
Or are they?
While telehealth can’t replace physical exams and necessary testing, you’d be surprised by what ZOOM+Care specialists can diagnose and treat virtually, through VideoCare™. We offer several specialist services online, including dermatology, women’s health and gynecology, mental health, podiatry, orthopedics, and more.
As with anything new, we realize that “virtual orthopedics” sounds a little (er, totally) odd at first. To give you a better understanding of what seeing a specialist through VideoCare™ is like, we sat down with two ZOOM+Care providers: Shannon O’Brien, an MD on our Orthopedic team, and Lisa Taulbee, an ND on our Women’s Health team. Read on for some A’s to your most burning virtual care Q’s:
Hi Shannon and Lisa! Many are familiar with the use of telemedicine for common medical issues such as fevers and sore throats. However, few know that specialty care, including gynecology and orthopedics, can be delivered virtually. Can you give us a few examples of reproductive health and orthotropic concerns that can be addressed and monitored through telemedicine?
LISA: There are several concerns related specifically to women’s health that are well-suited to telemedicine. Patients can obtain refills of birth control pills quickly through this route. We can also safely treat a few infections that are common for patients, including yeast infections and urinary tract infections. Telemedicine is also a great way to discuss any questions someone might have about starting contraception like IUDs, or to address health conditions such as endometriosis or PCOS that they may have already been diagnosed with.
SHANNON: Video visits are best utilized (at least so far) to do follow up checks, like range of motion, progress with therapy. It is not good for initial visits for back pain, knee, or shoulder complaints. For those, I need to palpate and feel things.
Gynecological and Ortho concerns often require in-office exams. What happens if a concern can’t be addressed virtually?
LISA: If a provider feels that a patient requires additional evaluation, say for someone who is experiencing pelvic pain, we can refer them to the clinic for an exam with one of our women’s health providers.
SHANNON: I have asked patients to come in for an in-person visit, and so far have not had anyone refuse.
Outside of keeping people safe during COVID-19, what are some advantages of virtual care? Is there anything that excites you about this brave new world of telemedicine?
LISA: I think the biggest advantage of virtual care is its convenience. It is so easy to make an appointment and then be “seen” in the comfort of your own home—no need to battle traffic or even change out of your pajamas to access care.
SHANNON: I think it would be a good way to connect people who live remotely to doctors. I lived in Alaska, and there are remote communities that do not have a licensed practitioner at any level for hundreds of miles. I think it would be a good option for people who cannot come in for in-person visits.
A lot of people hear “virtual gynecology” or “virtual orthopedics” and think, “Huh? How on earth does that even work?” What is one thing that might surprise people about the experience?
LISA: Gynecology is about so much more than just a pelvic exam! Our Women’s Health providers can address many areas of health with their patients. We discuss contraception, sexual health, chronic conditions that may benefit from lifestyle changes, preventative health measures, in addition to any pelvic concerns that a woman may have. And many of these issues can be addressed through telemedicine alone.
What are some differences between an in-person visit and a virtual visit at ZOOM+Care? What are some similarities?
LISA: These types of visits are identical to each other other than the ability to perform physical exams. Even if a patient really does require an in-person visit, we can significantly decrease the amount of time that they need to be in the clinic by collecting all of the relevant information before a patient leaves their home.
SHANNON: Both visits allow one on one attention, and the history portion is no different. The differences come with the physical exam component. Virtual care is good for patient teaching, but it’s difficult to replicate a good knee or shoulder exam. I can’t get x-rays, put on or remove a cast, fit cam boots or braces, either.