Health concern or issue? There’s an app for that.
The coronavirus pandemic may have seemingly put life on pause, as we’re staying inside and going through more hand soap than we could have ever predicted, but life events, like getting sick, are still happening. Luckily, physicians and specialists, from nutritionists to neurologists, are still seeing patients, and you can likely get an appointment with yours through telehealth.
When it comes to your health, no issue is too small to raise to the attention of a physician. As Dr. Beth Schwartz said in a recent interview on stress periods, “I’m not treating COVID-19 patients right now. My job is still to take care of reproductive concerns.”
Below is a guide to some other services that you may not be aware are available through Jefferson’s telehealth platform JeffConnect to ensure you remain healthy throughout stay at home orders.
Is the combination of stress and a paltry pantry wreaking havoc on your digestion and diet? Luckily, you can now connect with a registered dietitian via telehealth. During an appointment, they will assess your nutritional requirements based on your age, gender, budget and any underlying medical conditions and help you get those nutrients through the foods that are available to you now.
“If you have celiac disease, you still need to follow a strict gluten-free diet,” says Emily Rubin, a clinical dietitian at the Jefferson Celiac Center. “If you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or cancer, you may need extra calories and a specialized diet to ensure you maintain optimal nutrition and to keep symptoms at bay. This time is especially challenging for people with prescribed diets. We can help.”
Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery
Jefferson’s specialists in otolaryngology diagnose and treat disorders of ear, nose and throat (ENT), as well as head and neck disorders. Disorders include allergies, sinusitis, thyroid problems, hearing loss and more. Right now, new patient appointments are available through EPIC MyChart (Jefferson electronic patient portal). They are able to also schedule follow-up and post-operative appointments.
“Telemedicine allows us to stay connected with our team and coordinate our patient’s care without diminishing the quality of their care,” says Dr. David Cognetti, co-director of the Jefferson Center for Head and Neck Surgery.
Obstetrics & Gynecology
The women’s health team, including Dr. Schwartz, is actively conducting appointments for all routine gynecological concerns and questions from reproductive health counseling to extending prescriptions so you can refill your birth control.
For pregnant patients, appointments have been adjusted to incorporate telehealth through JeffConnect as well as in-person visits. The goal is to minimize the time spent in the office while providing full access to your providers. For more information about pregnancy during a pandemic, check out our story on how medical care has changed.
In addition, the CenteringPregnancy team at Jefferson transitioned to Zoom for its group classes and bonus offerings like mindfulness exercises.
Bariatric & Metabolic Surgery
If you were considering bariatric surgery before the pandemic, you can make an appointment. Dr. Alec Beekley, director of the Jefferson Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery program, says that the entire team of providers, from dieticians, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists and physicians, have successfully transitioned to telehealth.
“The Jefferson Transplant Institute is able to offer all phases of outpatient care through telehealth and continues to share our experience and best practices nationally with other programs who are just beginning to use this technology,” says Dr. Pooja Singh, medical director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at the Jefferson Transplant Institute. Those phases include evaluations for both interested organ donors and recipients, re-evaluations and post-transplant clinics.
Family medicine and primary care physician Dr. Carman Ciervo stresses that all patients, and especially those of advanced age and multiple illnesses, should be practicing social distancing right now, but that doesn’t mean putting off health issues, especially when it comes to chronic disease management, like hypertension and diabetes.
“Telemedicine has provided primary care physicians the opportunity to do what they do best: educating and counseling,” says Dr. Ciervo. “We want to be focused on health promotion and this allows us the opportunity to talk to people at home and advise on counseling on a healthy lifestyle at home. Telehealth visits allow us to see their expressions and see ours as well, and that makes a difference in helping patients.”
Facial expressions and letting the clinician know where pain occurs when pressing on a particular area of the abdomen/belly can help in the diagnosis of conditions such as appendicitis. Your doctor will see you wince when you press against a sensitive area and that gives them a lot of clues as to what’s happening.
Tip: If you haven’t established a primary care physician, Jeff Connect/telehealth can be a great opportunity to do so.
Endocrinology and Diabetes
Dr. Barbara Simon has been regularly seeing patients with diabetes through telehealth appointments. “My patients not only have to practice social distancing and handwashing practices, but there are additional preparation they need to consider during stay at home orders,” she explains. “During appointments, I make sure they have enough medication and everything they need for at-home testing, plus a supply of carbohydrates at the ready and we discuss a sick day plan.”
The physicians of the Jane & Leonard Korman Respiratory Institute – Jefferson Health and National Jewish Health are seeing patients through virtual appointments through EPIC MyChart for managing conditions from allergies to chronic diseases like COPH, Sarcoidosis and asthma.
“The Korman Respiratory Institute has leveraged telehealth visits for all respiratory conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Brian Connolly, respiratory associate administrator. “We have a dedicated team of providers who are available for urgent, virtual visits on a daily basis.”
At present, telehealth is being used for three major purposes in cancer care:
- Pre-visit consultations to discuss care plans, given limits on visitors and caregivers in the clinic.
- Follow-up visits for all suitable patients, especially wherein lab testing and imaging can be completed off-site.
- Visits with oncologist-social worker teams, given the high anxiety associated with cancer care in the backdrop of the COVID crisis.
Telehealth is also being used to ensure that any cancer clinical trial deemed essential by a care provider and all cancer trials with curative intent remain open at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (SKCC).
“We continue to see new and existing patients for cancer treatment throughout the coronavirus outbreak,” Dr. Karen Knudsen, Director, SKCC. “While we have extended our appointment hours, telehealth and virtual visits have been transformational in allowing us to keep our patients on schedule with their cancer treatment and clinical trials.”
Yes, even neurosurgery is being done virtually. “We’re not talking about the actual surgery, we’re talking about everything that goes before and after surgery,” says neurosurgeon Dr. Joshua Heller. “For many years the neurosurgeons and neurologists at Jefferson have used telemedicine with robots to provide in-patient consultations to patients in remote locations.” Now, they’re using JeffConnect to connect with patients to review imaging together (pre-operative), discuss current management and to discuss possible surgical intervention in the future.
In order to optimize your experience, please update your Android or iOS app and make sure your microphone and camera are set to “allow.” If you have questions about how to do this, please call 215-955-7975, and press 4 for “Telehealth.”