At the pandemic’s start, my endocrinologist’s office phoned to let me know that they were no longer seeing patients in the office and asked if I would like to reschedule my upcoming appointment for an online visit.
I said no.
My decision had nothing to do with wanting to avoid my appointment. Quite the opposite.
I know that many people with diabetes dread endo visits, but I actually like them. They tend to be free-wheeling discussions of my diabetes care – my doctor and I review my most recent lab work, check weight and cholesterol, and consider if I am experiencing any burn out when it comes to having a chronic condition.
Often, issues that I didn’t expect to discuss arise during our time together: Were the occasional pins and needles I was feeling in my feet early signs of neuropathy? Why was I having more lows than usual? And because my endocrinologist listens to my questions and takes my issues seriously, he often responds with useful suggestions that help me to improve my care.
This is the kind of interaction I was convinced I’d miss out on if I met with my doctor online. I worried that a telemedicine visit might be less personal and less thorough. That limiting our communication through a screen might hamper what had been, up until now, excellent care. And how can you evaluate someone’s overall health without having a body in the room?
But since then, I’ve had a few chances to reconsider my position on telehealth.
When I recently developed a sore throat, for example, the nurse practitioner from my internist’s practice joined me on Zoom. After questioning me about my symptoms for a good ten to fifteen minutes, she ordered antibiotics which cured the infection in a few days.
I’ve also been meeting with my psychologist online. When we first made the switch to virtual appointments, anticipating that we would not be able to speak as openly or freely online, I suggested we meet less frequently. But after I shared my misgivings about telehealth, my therapist offered her own hesitations. And somehow, following an honest discussion about each of our issues around the medium, it became easier to talk about other topics as well. While we agree the medium isn’t ideal for therapy, we’ve settled into a reasonable mode of operation.
As for my endo, I have an in-person appointment scheduled for September. Given the current spread of the virus, a face to face meeting is not guaranteed. Despite my hesitation, we may next meet on screen. It will take some adjustments, I’m sure. But I may as well embrace it. Now that the use of telemedicine is so widespread , it may be here to stay, pandemic or no. So, if we are cancelled in person, in the interest of my best health, I’m planning on casting aside my doubts and jumping in.
(Note that the only way I could justify delaying my routine appointment was because my recent A1C’s have run steadily between 5.7 and 6.1, and my daily numbers and weight have been pretty good as well.)