If you have Crohn’s disease, getting to the doctor’s office may be a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telemedicine is a great way to limit your risk but still keep up with your health care.
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What Is Telemedicine?
Also called telehealth or e-health, telemedicine lets people and their health care team interact using a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
You can meet with your doctor or other health care professional by video chat or phone just as you would for an in-person appointment. You can talk about things like:
- Changes to your symptoms
- If you are having flare-ups
- Any questions you have about your medication.
You can have a family member or friend join you for the visit if you want someone else to listen in to what your doctor says. That’s usually not possible with in-person appointments during the pandemic.
Telemedicine may also allow you to:
- Use an online patient portal to schedule appointments, see test results, request medication refills, and email your doctor with questions.
- Use an app or online program to track your symptoms, diet, physical activity, and medications and then send the information to your doctor.
- Get email or text reminders when you have appointments, or need to refill medications.
How You Can Prepare
When you call or use the online portal to make your appointment, make sure it’s OK that you have a telemedicine visit. Many doctors use telehealth for routine checkups. First-time visits and more serious medical concerns may need in-person appointments.
If you have a telemedicine visit, there are things you can do to make sure you get the most out of it:
Before your call, check to make sure your technology is working. For example:
- Check the camera and sound on your computer, phone, or tablet.
- Charge your device or plug it in.
- Find a quiet spot with good lighting, and ask people in your home not to interrupt you.
- If you want someone to join you for the call, make sure they are ready.
Use a location in your home where the Wi-Fi or cell service is strong so the quality is good for your visit.
Check with your insurance company to make sure telehealth visits are covered. Do this before your appointment. If telehealth visits are covered, ask if your copay will be the same as an in-person visit. If it isn’t, call your doctor’s office to see what your cost would be.
Prepare for your virtual visit. Write down any symptoms or questions you have, just as you would for an in-person checkup. Have your medicines nearby. If you keep track of your flares, symptoms, weight, or exercise with an app, upload that data before you start.
Take notes. Write down any directions or comments from your doctor. If you have questions later, you can ask them online through the patient portal. Your doctor might also add notes to the portal about your visit.
When to Use Telemedicine
Telehealth can be a good choice for your regular follow-up appointments with your doctor to see how your Crohn’s is doing.
You can also have flares or medication side effects that can happen in between your regular visits. Telemedicine can also be an easy way to get fast help for an urgent need in those situations.
In some cases, you might be able to see your doctor with a telehealth visit instead of having to go to urgent care. This would keep you from having to travel when you don’t feel well.
When Telemedicine Isn’t the Right Answer
If you’re just starting your Crohn’s disease treatment, you may need in-person visits. Early on, your doctor will need to do physical exams, and you may need bloodwork or other tests.
Your doctor may need to do a procedure like an endoscopy or colonoscopy. This is where a small camera attached to a flexible tube takes pictures and samples from your stomach or bowels. If you haven’t been diagnosed yet, your doctor may need to perform tests and procedures to make a diagnosis.
If your symptoms are severe, your doctor might want to see you for an exam or to order more tests. Call or email them to find out the best options for you.