New Health Tools to Use

Telehealth, Technology and MyCharts, oh my!

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Here’s the scene. You’re sitting in your health provider’s office — wait, make that sitting in front of your computer waiting for your doctor to log on to Zoom for your annual Medicare Wellness Check.

Even if your own log-on was not problematic — which I suspect is rare for many elders with minimal exposure to technology — and even if the audio on the device you are using is functioning perfectly, the experience can be unsettling.

Even if you had the foresight to send a list of questions to the provider in advance using your clinic’s MyChart approach so that all parties could have a focused discussion — and assuming you felt comfortable enough (or were able) to leave your home a week earlier and go to the lab to get blood work done in advance so the provider had test results to review with you — the experience can be unsettling.

That said, your provider’s face when it shows up on the screen is unmasked — as is yours — which is good. You are hopefully both smiling. He or she is by now fairly well-versed in these online medical appointments, which is good.

But the idea that the irksome rash snaking its way down your back cannot be visually examined unless you have your spouse take a picture of your naked back and forward that photo to the health provider, that rash as a potential problem may not get discussed. Oh, I suppose you could disrobe in front of your computer screen and turn around to expose the irritated area. Yes, you could do that.

I think the key to all this is the phrase. “Yes, I think I could do that”

Reimagining how we stay healthy during a pandemic that keeps us housebound and at increased risk of compounding the problems identified at last year’s wellness visit by venturing out to see a doctor in person is a new situation for all of us.

The challenges are further exacerbated by anxiety about the virus itself. The symptoms of this infectious disease expounded in the media play tricks with our minds, experts tell us.

We all need to think about these things in new ways. We must take on a new attitude about telehealth in the time of COVID-19 and leverage the opportunities present. For hearing-impaired people, which is typically 50% of people older than 75, the experience may enhance communication. You cannot hear your soft-spoken provider — simply adjust the volume. But wait, there’s more. An online moment of any kind prompts us to be more prepared. Focused. Pencil and paper at the ready. Data from your last in-person visit nearby. If we are concerned about upper respiratory symptoms and anxious after reading the latest Centers for Disease Control dictum, your provider may suggest you use their online coronavirus symptom checker (cdc.gov).

It turns out the online wellness check-up may not be unsettling at all. It might be way for you to be more contemplative about how to deal with your health. Perhaps it will make you more open to suggestions about exercise and nutrition. You may find yourself more likely to say, “Yes, I can do that,” which is good.

 

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We all need to think about these things in new ways. We must take on a new attitude about telehealth in the time of COVID-19 and leverage the opportunities present.

 

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. 

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