As our community continues to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, MetroHealth has ramped up its telehealth offerings to ensure that patients can access care quickly, conveniently and safely. Kathryn Teng, MD, Director of Health and Wellness, and Albert Ferreira, Director of Telehealth Operations, answer frequently asked questions about our telehealth offerings.
What is telehealth?
Albert: Telehealth, also referred to as virtual visits, is a collection of tools and technology that allows providers to offer care to patients from a distance. These tools can be video calls or telephone conversations and can include patients sending text messages, pictures or video to their health care providers.
What kind of illnesses can be treated with telehealth?
Dr. Teng: Treatment for most ailments can certainly start with a telehealth visit. With telephone visits, we offer chronic disease management, especially for patients monitoring their hypertension with a blood pressure cuff and individuals with diabetes who are measuring their blood sugar at home. We can also diagnose and recommend treatments for upper respiratory viral infections over the phone and offer mental health services. Video conferencing allows us to conduct a more thorough physical exam because we can see symptoms like rashes.
Based on your initial telehealth visit and symptoms, your doctor may schedule an in-person appointment or refer you to another MetroHealth provider for specialized care. What conditions are better treated in-person?
Dr. Teng: In-person visits are better if you’re a new patient. Developing the doctor-patient relationship takes time, and meeting in the office helps you to connect with each other. Any ailment that requires a more comprehensive exam, like your annual physical, is also better done in person.
Do I meet with my own doctor for telehealth appointments or a different provider?
Dr. Teng: Your telehealth appointment will be with the health care provider that you usually see for your in-person visits. If his or her schedule is full and you need to see someone right away, we have a team of doctors who are available to you via our telehealth services.
How can I prepare for a telehealth visit?
Dr. Teng: If you are using MyChart for your video visit, log on to the MyChart portal to answer a series of registration questions about 30 minutes before your appointment time. You’ll then “sit” in a virtual waiting room while your doctor is notified that you’re ready.
For telephone visits, your doctor will call you within 30 minutes of your appointment time.
Whether you are connecting by video or by telephone, make sure you’re in a quiet place with some privacy. Have a list of questions ready that you want to address and any medications or supplements you’re taking. This helps us with making treatment decisions. If you are taking blood pressure measurements at home, conducting weight checks or monitoring your blood sugar information, have a log of this information ready.
Albert: From a technical perspective, make sure you know how to enable your device for telehealth visits. Also, if you’re doing a video visit, test your webcam, microphone and speaker before your appointment. For Smartphones and tablet device, making sure your device is charged is also important.
What does a telehealth visit cost?
Albert: The cost of a telehealth can be comparable to an in-person visit. Be sure to check with your insurance provider about whether your appointment is covered and what your co-pay might be.
Is telehealth replacing in-person care?
Albert: No. Our goal is to make telehealth simple and easy so it complements in-person care. This gives patients the ability to choose the type of appointment and care that is best for them.
Telehealth is for Everyone
At 102 years old, Robert Paulus thought he’d seen it all — but back in December, he had his very first medical appointment by video.
To prepare for the appointment, Mr. Paulus stepped on his scale to check his weight and placed a cuff on his upper arm to take his blood pressure. Then, with the help of his daughter, he set up his iPad and connected to his appointment through MyChart, where he was greeted by his primary care physician, Ellen Gelles, MD.
Dr. Gelles is a cheerleader for advancing patients’ use of video appointments, especially now that COVID-19 is a primary concern. She encourages her patients to see how rewarding and simple video appointments can be. “My older patients are so excited,” she said. “They haven’t left the house and they can still see their doctor.”
Kathryn Teng, MD
Albert Ferreira, Director of Telehealth Operations
Virtual Health Talks
To watch a recording of Dr. Teng and Mr. Ferreira talking telehealth, as well as other MetroHealth experts discussing a variety of health topics, visit the MetroHealth Virtual Health Talks page.