Telehealth, although a relatively newer concept pre-COVID-19 pandemic, is here to stay in a post-pandemic healthcare system. There are many benefits to having access to telehealth, especially for those with chronic health conditions that require frequent medical appointments. Chronic kidney disease, like many other chronic conditions, requires visits with specialists, primary care providers, therapists and more. Keeping up with appointment schedules while managing sick days and chronic side effects can become overwhelming and costly. Having the opportunity to meet with select healthcare providers via phone or video can help manage stress levels and allow for more rest and recovery as needed.
Technological advancements today provide an opportunity to visit our healthcare providers from the comfort of our own home, which is especially favorable when feeling too ill or potentially contagious. Being able to connect for our health care appointments at home via phone, chat or video saves time, transportation money, and even environmental emissions. We can receive advice, medical diagnoses and even various therapies via telehealth. For those who are immunocompromised, visiting with their healthcare providers and specialists via video provides another advantage to staying safe.
Although we are not at the stage of being able to draw blood or have full examinations via telehealth, the tools we have in place are most helpful when they work correctly. Technological errors or “tech issues” can be frustrating, especially when trying to have a conversation about an important health matter. Combining tech jargon with medical jargon can present challenges to communication, so setting yourself up for success is key:
First, make sure your devices are fully charged. Whether using a smartphone, home phone, tablet or personal computer, have a power source and connecting cables available if needed and set up in an area with the best connectivity.
Next, most video programs have an option to “test” audio and video. Take a few minutes to test the video, speakers and microphone to ensure that each component is working properly.
Additionally, do not be ashamed about having to troubleshoot. If you are having trouble with your device, start with a simple search-engine website or video site tutorial. You may just learn a thing or two!
Let us take a look at additional ways to make the most out of a telehealth visit as a patient living with chronic kidney disease:
- Have a list of questions prepared ahead of time and written down just as you might for an in-person visit. Also, keep a pen and paper accessible for taking notes or asking the provider to spell out/review any medical terminology or instructions that you may normally receive on a written prescription or visit summary when going to the clinic office.
- Locate a copy of your most recent kidney labs and biometric data for the visit. Be prepared with the date and levels of your eGFR (estimated glomular filtration rate), blood pressure, uacr (urine albumin-creatinine ratio) as well as sodium, potassium and phosphate/phosphorus levels. Aim to keep records of these markers as well as your weight in a folder or notebook for easy reference.
- For patients on in-home dialysis, aim to have your telehealth visits with your dialysis equipment close by so that you can provide any details about the settings on the equipment or troubleshoot adjustments as needed with your clinician.
The nature of CKD care makes it particularly conducive to being managed through telehealth given that medical history, review of routine labs and counseling can all be conducted virtually. The main hurdle is the lack of a physical exam, so finding the appropriate balance between telehealth visits and in-person visits is key.
Be prepared in advance for your telehealth visits to avoid the stress that may accompany a traditional in-person clinic visit and relish in the fact that you do not need to fight traffic or sit in the waiting room!