At a time where many of us have had to remain at home and otherwise change the way we are living our daily lives, telemedicine has stepped up as a very useful option for doctors to connect with patients and potential patients.
Our office is very happy to provide a telemedicine appointment option for anyone who may benefit from seeing Dr. Williams (and having him see you) over a remote video connection.
It is a very useful way for established patients to continue to carry on a dialog with Dr. Williams regarding ongoing issues or concerns, and to check in for uncomplicated post-operative follow ups.
Recently, with some new changes to rules and regulations, this platform is also now able to help new patients (those who have never been seen in the office) get the ball rolling with initial questions and evaluations.
That said, there are some caveats and things to keep in mind when using telemedicine with our practice. We will go over these, and then discuss some tips on how to have the best, easiest time with an appointment.
Your Location Very Much Matters
The nature of what we treat means we hear from people throughout the country, and even the world. Telemedicine makes it easier to communicate than ever before, but we must still follow certain legal rules during these types of appointments.
Our practice is in Maryland, and that is where Dr. Williams is licensed to practice medicine. If you are not also currently in Maryland (literally having your feet on the ground here), Dr. Williams is unable to directly prescribe any kind of medication, nor is he able to directly order any tests.
We understand the frustration, as it affects both the patient and the physician. Needless to say, 150 years ago when medical licensing began and travel was difficult, they probably did not foresee the possibility of telemedicine. It is also safe to say that 4 months ago, telemedicine was in its infancy. For sure, COVID-19 will bring this discussion to the forefront of the medical/surgical Societies and lawmakers in the next few years.
For out-of-state patients, Dr. Williams can still meet with you over telemedicine to discuss your symptoms, condition, and options. However, if we are to take any further steps, one of several things must happen:
- You will have to come to Maryland to see us in-person, after the pandemic passes.
- Dr. Williams will have to make recommendations for prescriptions and/or tests to your primary care physician (PCP) or a referred doctor who is licensed to practice in your state, and who is willing to write orders for these test or medications.
- Dr. Williams may be able to refer you to another specialist within your state.
It may be a good idea, then, to mention your intent to speak with Dr. Williams to your PCP beforehand, to make sure they are on board with considering any of his recommendations.
You Still Have Rights to Privacy and Protection
Just as with an in-person appointment, a telemedicine appointment still abides by rules that keep patient privacy and security in mind. What does this mean?
- You may question or decline any requests made by Dr. Williams that you do not feel comfortable with, such as showing a “sensitive area.” (Dr. Williams will never make such a request unless it is pertinent to the evaluation, but you still have the right to deny the request.)
- You may request that a member of our staff be present with Dr. Williams during the appointment at any time.
- If the patient in question is a minor, a parent or guardian must be with them and a present part of the appointment at all times.
Once again, please never hesitate to express any concerns you may have. Neither Dr. Williams nor any member of the staff will ever try to force you to do anything you do not wish to do.
Know Your Insurance Company’s Policy on Telemedicine
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many insurance companies have greatly relaxed their policies on telemedicine. Many are offering very low or even $0 copays for the service.
However, the best way for you to ensure this is the case for your plan and to avoid any unwelcome surprises is to contact your provider.
Scheduling a Telemedicine Appointment
Don’t worry about a telemedicine appointment being complicated. The process has been made as simple as possible.
- First, you must fill out the consent form found on our Telemedicine Appointments page. You can do this from a smartphone, tablet, or computer, signing your name in the bottom box with either your finger, a stylus, or your mouse.
- After you submit the form, our front desk will call you to go over some preliminary details and how to hold the appointment. We will then text or email you a link, depending on what device you wish to use to conduct the appointment.
- Click this link when it’s time to start your appointment. If your device asks you to allow camera or microphone, please say yes. When Dr. Williams is ready, the appointment will begin.
And that’s pretty much it! No need to download anything or sign up for an account.
You will, of course, need a device that will allow video calls. This can be a smartphone, tablet, or a computer with a webcam and microphone. You will also need this device connected to a secure, stable Internet connection.
Additional Tips to Make the Most of Telemedicine
- Have a quiet, calm spot to conduct the meeting, if possible. Try to avoid noise and distractions in the background.
- The best light sources will come from in front of or to the side of you. If you stand in front of a light source, such as a window, we will have a more difficult time seeing you.
- Odds are high that we will ask to see the area that is causing you pain. If your pain is in your foot for instance, you better be pretty flexible if you are using a desktop computer! We don’t want you pulling any muscles trying to get your foot up on your desk. You might find a smartphone ideal for such tasks. Clearly this depends on the area in need, your technology, and creativity, and flexibility.
- Having a trusted loved one or friend with you can be a big help, as they can move the camera for you or take notes, if needed.
- As with any appointment, write down any questions you may have beforehand so you don’t accidentally forget to bring them up. (It happens a lot more often than you might think.)
Please understand that there are limitations to telemedicine.
Obviously, the thing that is missing is human touch! But while we can feel very confident diagnosing and treating some issues that come up, there are definitely times when we can’t make a final decision without physically seeing and examining the patient in person. Most people understand this, but we want to be sure that it’s stated.
If we do not feel secure in a treatment plan without further information, we will be very honest and upfront with you about this, and make our recommendations for next steps, which may include an “old fashioned” office visit. If an in-person appointment is recommended during this challenging time, we will take all precautions necessary to provide as clean and low-risk an environment as possible within our office.
Taking the First Steps
A telemedicine appointment may be a great first step toward screening your condition and determining whether Dr. Williams may be able to help you. If it turns out we can’t, we can try to direct you to someone who may.
If you have any questions about telemedicine itself, please feel free to call our office at (410) 709-3868. In the meantime, stay safe and stay healthy!