As the coronavirus pandemic continues to mutate and infect millions of people, the healthcare industry is overwhelmed. With some doctors dying by succumbing to the disease, there are now limited ways for people to reach their doctors. Many healthcare professionals are scared of seeing patients because they worry that they will lie about their health information, not divulging pertinent data that would be relevant to how the doctor would assess them.
Given this, many doctors are now offering their services via telemedicine. However, not all medical specialties can be done via health apps or online health communication programs. One of the specialties that may find it difficult to see their patients online is ENTs. In otolaryngology, there are cases that must be seen in person. How can they succeed in providing remote consultations with their patients?
Telemedicine During the Pandemic
During the start of the coronavirus pandemic, most surgeons were forced to postpone elective surgeries so they would not exhaust the already lacking personal protective equipment (PPE). Some medical specialties have resorted to offering their services online in an effort to decongest the hospitals that may need to shift their focus on caring for and managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
At first, the response was rather lukewarm. Many people opted to see their doctors face-to-face. Over time, most of the patients realized how convenient and cost-effective it is to resort to telehealth. It is much safer, too. While telemedicine has long been in existence since the early 1950s, it has only recently surged in popularity.
Of course, it has its own flaws. Doctors often still need to see their patients in person. For otolaryngologists, it is a challenge. Most of these patients come to the emergency room and turn out to have a severe condition that they have to operate on immediately. But, many forward-thinking ENTs believe that telemedicine for otolaryngology will work.
Telemedicine for Otolaryngology
Like in all aspects of medicine, telehealth or remote consultations are only useful for non-emergency cases and post-operative management. Patients who need to see their ENTs should only choose telemedicine if:
It is their initial consultation for a non-severe case.
Patients who only need a consultation about their ears, nose, and throat but feel that it is non-serious can benefit from telehealth since they can simply go online and consult with their ENT. Often, they only need to describe their condition accurately.
They live in a remote area, and they don’t have access to an otolaryngologist.
Telemedicine was initially made for this special purpose – to provide care for people without access to medical doctors. With telemedicine, doctors can advise what procedures they can or cannot do for specific conditions. For instance, patients with sinusitis can be advised on what home care remedies they can do to provide relief.
Their medical conditions do not require surgery or any procedure that must be done in a clinic or hospital setting.
For patients who do not require any procedure, consults can be done online. However, for individuals who may have worsening sleep apnea, they may need to undergo procedures to assess their condition better.
They need post-operative care and management.
Patients who had surgery can conveniently update their surgeons on how they are coping after the operation. Through online consultation, doctors can check whether postoperative sites are healing well.
While it can be a useful ally for medical doctors, including otolaryngology, telemedicine has its limitations as well. Both patients and doctors cannot entirely rely on it. Thankfully, there are ways that patients can still do face-to-face consults. For example, at the Dr. Krueger Sleep & Sinus Clinic, patients can schedule their visits to ensure that they will not have exposure to other patients who may have the coronavirus.