Lake and Sumter Style Magazine
6:44 pm EDT
Saturday, May 15, 2021

In the Villages: A new kind of house call

‘Telehealth’ can save you a trip to your doctor.

Story: Joe Angione

The coronavirus has made doctor appointments hard to get—almost impossible, actually. The pandemic has created a major trend toward “telehealth” visits to doctors’ offices that are conducted by using a house phone, smart phone, tablet or computer equipped with a person-to-person video application.

Essentially, a telehealth visit is seeing your doctor

without going to his or her office.  In its simplest form, you use any phone—even one without a photo/video application—to call your doctor with questions about how to treat common illnesses: colds, sinus infections, stomach disorders, headaches, fevers and the like. Just explain what’s wrong and ask how to treat it. The doctor then might send prescriptions to your pharmacy to alleviate your condition.

Many Villagers found that a telehealth visit was the first step in checking for coronavirus symptoms with their physicians and determining whether they should schedule an in-person exam or, perhaps, go directly to the hospital to be tested for the virus.

The first thing to do when initiating a telehealth visit is to carefully explain your condition to your health-care provider to find out whether it can be handled via your phone or computer.

Ailments such as a serious injury from a fall, cuts, bumps, bruises, swelling of the face, arms or legs, and certain other conditions must be seen by your health-care provider for diagnosis and treatment through a tele-visit. And so, these would require a communication device such as a smart phone, tablet or computer equipped with a camera and a microphone to send pictures and videos to your physician.

Health providers that you can tele-visit include primary care physicians and specialists, and also nurse practitioners and physician assistants associated with your doctor’s practice.

However, in-office procedures like blood work and other tests and hands-on exams can’t be done through tele-visits. Life-threatening events, especially heart attacks and strokes, should be handled with an immediate phone call to 911 or a speedy trip to a hospital emergency room.

Tele-visits often are scheduled through a special facilitating website or app. You can Google these sites by typing “telehealth apps” into your browser. The app/website you select will confirm an appointment time when you and your doctor can sign on to begin your tele-visit.

The costs of tele-visits vary and often are covered by Medicare and other health insurance plans. Costs average about half of an in-person visit, making telehealth well worth the “trip.”