What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is an online appointment between a physician and a patient that helps the physician diagnose and treat disease. The appointment can be done via telephone or via video chat on a desktop computer, laptop computer, pen tablet, or smart phone. As with a traditional office visit, the telemedicine appointment is completely confidential and follows all government privacy laws.(i.e. HIPAA compliant.) Information exchanged during the encounter is fully encrypted and not accessible to outside parties.
Why is Telemedicine being used in ENT Practices?
Telemedicine is especially useful when the onsite appointment is not advised or not possible. During the increasing COVID-19 pandemic, there is evolving evidence that ENT physicians are at high risk of infection with the disease. The Coronavirus exists in very high concentrations within the nasal passages and throat. As of March 23, 2020, the Academy of Otolaryngology / Head and Neck Surgery has recommended that ENT physicians cease all office appointments and surgeries unless they are covered by full protective gear- N95 mask, gown, gloves, and protective goggles. At that time, such protective equipment was not available to independent practices and was reserved for the hospital setting. As a consequence, other options for patient care became necessary. Telemedicine is being employed by doctors in our profession to maintain continuity of care, and will likely continue for the foreseeable future. In an effort to promote the safety of our patients, providers, and staff, ENT and Voice Care of Atlanta will continue to utilize telemedicine as a treatment option. Patients can now be seen onsite or via telemedicine, whichever is deemed most appropriate.
How can the doctor tell what
is wrong without a hands-on examination?
In our experience, 90% of the diagnostic process is obtained from taking a thorough patient history. The physical exam, while also important, is not as critical. An experienced physician can narrow down a new patient’s diagnosis without a complete hands-on physical examination to “get the ball rolling” on a patient treatment plan, until the time that the full exam is possible. The telemedicine visit can also help the physician decide what tests, if any, will be necessary to fully understand the disease process. For established patients that have been seen before, the doctor can use telemedicine to determine if the patient has improved since the last visit, order tests, review test results, discuss surgery when needed, adjust medications, and plan the patient’s next steps in treatment.
What do I need for a Telemedicine Vist?
For a successful telemedicine visit, you will need:
A computer or smart phone with internet access.
A quiet room with good lighting and no loud background noise.
If you are driving, please pull over.
A flashlight (if possible, but not critical)
A thermometer to check your temperature (if possible, but not critical)
Patience and a sense of humor, telemedicine is not perfect and some delays may occur.
Will My Insurance pay for my Telemedicine Visit?
Yes. The federal government has passed legislation that has relaxed restrictions on telemedicine service so that doctors can bill Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, and most private insurance carriers for these services.
What ENT complaints cannot be managed by Telemedicine?
The following non-urgent examples will need to be managed onsite in the office:
Any problem that requires telescope exam of the nose, sinuses, or larynx
Any ear problem that requires hands on exam, i.e. wax removal
The following urgent examples will be seen onsite or in the hospital for immediate management:
Airway or breathing problems
Sudden hearing loss or vertigo
Foreign object of the ear, nose, or throat