How To Get The Most Out Of Your Chiropractic Virtual Visit
I’m a Chiropractic Physician, and normally, my favorite part of the job is getting to see my patients regularly. Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic, has substantially cut down on in-person visits to help put the brakes on the spread of the coronavirus. In this time of high anxiety, the phones at my clinic have, understandably, been ringing a lot.
Even though it feels like everything has changed, the usual issues and complaints still seem to rear their ugly head. Patients still need to know if the pain in their back after mowing the lawn is a muscle strain or blown disc that requires treatment; whether too much sleeping is causing their neck pain; whether they should use ice or their heating pad for my pain. For many such cases, I normally would have said, “Come on in, and let’s get you checked out.” But now we’re all pivoting to video chats, zoom, e-mail, and phone calls.
Here are some tips to help you know when to call your Chiropractor and how to get the most out of your virtual visit:
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW FIRST
Emergencies are still emergencies. First off, if you’re having an emergency, get immediate medical help. You’re more likely to suffer from one of the common medical conditions than get infected with COVID-19. Some of the same rules from pre-pandemic days apply: Sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness in one side of the face or body, or a sudden thunder-clap headache are all red-alert symptoms that could signal a heart attack or stroke. The same goes for serious difficulty breathing or sudden-onset confusion in a loved one. Call 911 immediately in these cases to evaluate you in-person.
If you don’t have a chiropractor yet, get one. Because of the pandemic, many doctors are allowing new patients to establish care via a telemedicine appointment. (Previously, many practices would only return the calls of patients who had already been seen in person at some point.) Your chiropractor will probably ask you to come in for an in-person visit when it becomes safe to do so.
Many medical clinics, urgent care centers and walk-in clinics are also offering telemedicine visits; Your chiropractor will recommend whether you should call or check out their website to set up an appointment.
When to know if you need a Telehealth visit with your chiropractor? Urgent, but not an emergency? Call your Chiropractor’s office first. Common concerns in this category include sharp back/neck pain with or without trauma, numbness and tingling in your hands and feet, radiating pain that shoots into the arms or legs, frequent headaches, muscle cramping, a new source of body pain, or a sprain/strain type injury. If the answer is yes, or if you aren’t sure, please give your doctor a call right away.
If you feel as though this is a … situation that can’t wait, or you find yourself taking pain medication for more than 3 days, you need to call your chiropractor.
Note that you probably won’t immediately reach the doctor but instead will speak to an assistant or case manager, who can quickly help establish if it’s safe for you to be evaluated via telemedicine.
To get the most out of this initial call, try to summarize what’s going on in one or two sentences. Start with your most urgent symptom first, note how long it’s been going on, and tell the staff member what’s changed. For example, you may have experienced headaches for years and find that they usually go away with ibuprofen. But if your headaches have become worse and aren’t responding to your usual medicines, let your chiropractor’s team know.
If they determine your symptoms sound like an emergency, you might be advised to go to the hospital ER right away. If that’s what they tell you, don’t hesitate — do it. Even during the COVID-19 crisis, the hospital is still the safest place for true emergencies.
Otherwise, if your concern can best be treated via telemedicine, you’ll be scheduled for a phone or video appointment. Whether or not you’ll have a co-pay for that conversation depends on its length and your health insurance. (To avoid getting unexpected bills, make sure you ask the administrative staff if your call is considered an appointment).
BEFORE THE APPOINTMENT
Prepare for the conversation: Make a list. Even for in-person visits, I always recommend that my patients write down a list of two or three issues they want to address, so they won’t forget anything important. This is especially vital when the visit is via phone or video-chat, where, I’ve noticed, my patients are more likely to lose their train of thought.
Keep track of when your symptoms started and if they’ve changed. A symptom diary may reveal clues to what’s causing your condition. Keep a brief record (your phone’s notes app works great, as does a pen and sheet of paper) of when symptoms occur, what seems to trigger or aggravate them, and what alleviates them.
Take and send a photo of obvious symptoms. Some medical issues — torticollis, swelling, inflammation, redness issues — are particularly well-suited to telemedicine. To help a doctor know how quickly a rash or skin reaction is spreading, draw a circle around it with a pen, and send a sequence of photos over a couple of hours, noting the time each was taken.
BE READY TO TALK
Call from a quiet place. So many of the telemedicine appointments I’ve fielded during the coronavirus pandemic have been tough for a simple reason: It was hard to hear or see the patient. Try to find a quiet place with good cell phone or wifi reception. Please test out your video chat application and settings prior to your call. That way, you can troubleshoot if it’s tricky to use.
Avoid phone tag. Be ready to answer your phone at your scheduled time, even if it comes from an unknown number. Make sure you’ve disabled any spam blockers or functions that reject calls or emails.
Sometimes an office visit is best. Know that for urgent issues, your chiropractor’s office is still open for business. As an essential service, their function is to make sure your problem doesn’t get worse and you have to visit the emergency department. In my experience over the last few weeks, the telemedicine approach has worked really well for certain, straightforward concerns.
But it doesn’t work so well for more complex issues. In those scenarios I really need to examine my patients and check them. I’ll still ask them to come into our clinic if I think a brief appointment with me may help them avoid a trip to the emergency room later.
Again, I enjoy seeing patient one to one. Moreover, telemedicine has plenty of limitations. But I also hope that us doctors can learn from this crazy experience, and start using more technology, in some cases, to offer our patients more convenient care. If you would like to schedule a telehealth consultation, please give us a call at (954) 367-9124 today!