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Monday, Aug. 23, 2021

TELEHEALTH IN THE FOURTH SURGE

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Telehealth is an excellent tool for providers and patients

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over. Currently in the fourth surge, COVID-19 is affecting hospitals locally, regionally and nationally. You have probably heard time and again about hospital staffing issues and extended wait times for care, as health-care professionals meet the demands of this virus head-on, all while taking care of a variety of patients.

During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it quickly became clear health-care providers had to adjust and begin thinking differently about caring for patients without relying on face-to-face interactions. Telehealth isn’t new technology, but it is an excellent tool for both providers and patients now more than ever. Using online capabilities and technologies like smartphones, computers or tablets, patients are turning to it more and more because of its convenience. It also provides a safe way for patients to communicate with their providers when they are worried about sickness or being contagious.

“It makes it safe for COVID-19 patients or any patient to seek care from home,” said Cara Permenter, M.D.

Telehealth makes it possible for patients to video chat with their physician in real-time during virtual visits, communicate directly with care providers through secure messaging and emails. And technology now makes it possible for physicians to use remote monitoring through apps and devices to gather general health information like weight, blood pressure or sugar levels.

It is important to research and be familiar with telehealth options available through health-care providers in the area. Be prepared to have a conversation with a physician and ask if telehealth can work as part of your treatment plan and meet your health-care needs.

The Health Resources and Services Administration, which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, suggests seeking care through telehealth for these everyday needs:

• Lab test or X-ray results

• Therapy and online counseling

• Recurring conditions like migraines or urinary tract infections

• Skin conditions

• Prescription management

• Urgent care issues like colds, coughs and stomach aches

• Post-surgical follow-up And follow-ups with a physician to track progress as part of a treatment plan:

• Providing numbers like weight, blood pressure, blood sugar or vital information

• Images of a wound or skin condition that might need treatment

• A log of your symptoms

• Medical records that may be filed with another doctor, such as X-rays

Dr. Permenter is a family medicine physician at CHRISTUS Primary Care Partners in Shreveport. She now uses telehealth while treating patients daily.

“I love that I can meet patients in a protected way that works for their busy schedules as well as mine! It helps for better control of their continuing treatment. I can check in and correspond regularly with patients on conditions like blood pressure and diabetes that have to be monitored.”

Same-day virtual, telephone and urgent care visits are all options for patients using MyChart, the newest tool being used by CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic (CTC) providers in Shreveport- Bossier. The MyChart application also provides patients with secure options to schedule appointments, request prescription refills, send messages and emails to clinics and physicians, pay bills and review health records through its electronic health record functionality.

“The portals in MyChart are instrumental in moving a patient’s care forward. I stay connected with them, and I am able to address the needs and concerns of family members who help care for my homebound patients,” said Dr. Permenter.

Dr. Permenter plans to continue using telemedicine even after the COVID-19 pandemic. Her patients are becoming familiar and comfortable with using it and continue to use it as their go-to. She did, however, reiterate that in some cases, in-person office visits may be necessary for some patients and certain medical conditions.

It is important to remember telehealth is a valuable resource right now to help protect yourself and others if you suspect you have COVID-19. If it happens and you find yourself logging in for a virtual visit and a COVID diagnosis, think through the important details you’ll need to provide. Be ready to tell your physician what symptoms you’re experiencing, how and when the exposure possibly happened, and any health and information about preexisting conditions that could put you at high risk for complications. Be prepared to ask questions and expect detailed follow-ups while recovering.

Your physician will guide you through your COVID journey, and be assured if an inpatient visit or trip to the emergency room is needed, you’ll be the first to know. In remaining vigilant during this wave of COVID-19, NOW could be the right time to experience a doctor’s appointment from your smartphone.

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