For several years now we as doctors have been reading about the advent of what can be termed telehealth. This also can be referred to as E-Visits (Electronic visits) Video visits. And most often we have seen this discussed in the context of patients who live in rural or isolated areas with limited access to specialists. Well, as necessity is the mother of invention, this capability can now be rapidly adapted to more routine medical and urologic care in the crisis we now face due to Covid-19.
Over the past week, we have rapidly made all of our group’s physicians capable of performing telehealth visits and had initial training. Even with my regularly scheduled visits this past Friday, I did arrange some follow-up visits as telehealth visits. With nationwide developments over the weekend, I plan to encourage all patients for whom it is appropriate to have telehealth visits in the coming weeks. Going over test results is a perfect application of this. I usually do prefer a face to face visit for results, especially something complex like biopsy results. The few times I review these types of results over the phone it does seem like a temporary stop-gap and that the patient can ask all their real and complex questions at the next visit. However, in the practice visit, I did with a staff member Friday afternoon the software was excellent and I really did feel like I was in the same room as the patient.
Of course with a telehealth visit, there is no palpation during a physical exam although we can perhaps visually examine something that is on the body’s surface. We cannot check a urine sample and we cannot do any important urologic procedures such as cystoscopies or prostate biopsies. But in the short-term, I will try to provide excellent care and communication and at the same time try to participate in the social distancing that is being talked about everywhere. I just returned from the gas station, and as soon as I swiped my credit card there was a video on the screen from the Southern Nevada Health District discussing their recommendations to the general population. Fortunately, this crisis is temporary but there may be a larger place in Urology for telehealth even once Covid-19 is resolved.