Using Telehealth Services During COVID-19

 

COVID-19 may be disrupting daily life, but the doctors across Yale New Haven Health are staying connected with their patients through telehealth. They can still offer care through a phone or video call.

Ryan O’Connell, MD, vice president of wellness and engagement at Northeast Medical Group, said video calls can be used for “almost anything,” including back pain, a sinus infection, high blood pressure check or diabetes check.

“The only kind of visit that might not be appropriate for a video visit would be a sudden worsening of a chronic condition like heart failure or anything requiring a procedure, like vaccinations,” Dr. O’Connell said.

It might be difficult for some patients to get used to the idea of seeing their doctor through a video call, but Dr. O’Connell said many patients and clinicians are “pleasantly surprised” by the level of comfort they experience. 

“Physicians should be able to determine whether or not through a video or telephone visit that they’ve gotten enough information to safely make a diagnosis,” Dr. O’Connell said.

If further care is needed, a patient will be referred to an urgent care center or another site. Some (or select) labs are still open, so if a doctor needs to order a test, patients would then go to a location to have that particular test done. 

Mental health services, refilling prescriptions and many pediatric visits can all be done through telehealth services. Anthony Porto, MD, medical director of ambulatory operations at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, said many families like the convenience of a virtual visit. If a child needs to see multiple providers, they can conference in at the same time.

“Because we’re not needing to arrange time for space, we’re actually seeing families more frequently because as long as I have a space that is private and the patient is available, we can make that happen,” Dr. Porto said.

He suggests parents write down any questions they have for their child’s doctor beforehand, since they won’t be able to rely on their phone during the visit. If a child has a rash, make sure they’re wearing the appropriate clothing so their doctor can see it on the call.

 

Helping patients through Telehealth

Patient Ryan Borg was initially apprehensive about getting help for abdominal pain because of COVID-19. But she scheduled a video visit with her primary care physician, Zadie Kenkare, MD, of Northeast Medical Group.

“I had never felt like that before so I knew something’s wrong. Something’s not right. I was scared of what it was going to be and I was scared about where am I going to go? How am I going to do this?” Borg said.

Dr. Kenkare suspected her patient had appendicitis and coordinated a visit for Borg at PhysicianOne Urgent Care, an affiliate of Yale New Haven Health. Borg ended up getting surgery at Yale New Haven Hospital that night. She was able to go home the next day.

“I called her the day after she got home and I said, ‘how are you doing?’ And she was very grateful to be able to have the video visit and to have that coordination of care, especially during this time where patients don’t know where to turn,” Dr. Kenkare said.

 

How do I sign up for a video call?

Patients can use a smartphone or tablet to activate a MyChart account and download the MyChart app. MyChart is a portal that gives patients access to their medical records, test results, medications and other health information. 

To sign up, head to the MyChart website and click the “Sign Up Now” button. Next, select “Request Access Code” to complete the enrollment process. A third party called Experian will need to validate your identity. 

Learn more about using MyChart in these videos: