Telehealth, COVID-19 and orthopedic care
Viral pandemics have happened throughout history.
We all would like to know when and how it ends, but, in the meantime, things still hurt, joints wear out, and accidents will occur.
Emergency rooms and urgent care facilities have seen a drop in patient volumes.
Some are fearful of contracting the virus by entering buildings where COVID-19 patients are being treated. They may avoid being evaluated, delay treatment or self-treat.
Whether this group will ever return is unclear.
Patients are also avoiding routine care, and the outcome may be affected.
Many physician offices have enacted telehealth medicine.
This technology has been available in the past, particularly when consulting experts from remote areas, such as having a pathologist review an unusual specimen.
Widespread use of Internet and smartphone access has come together at this critical time.
This technology is also convenient when such interactions can be dovetailed into electronic records for recording the interaction and initiating or continuing treatment.
Telehealth has some use in orthopedic surgery, especially if the need is urgent.
It can be used to view an injury, to examine a routine post-op incision, or to see an acute injury, which is difficult to describe.
There are still areas where this technology may not be as effective.
Elderly patients may not have Internet access, are not always Internet savvy, or understand how to navigate the patient portal.
Safety-net communities, where COVID-19 may be high and most in need, may not have access to the necessary skills.
Finally, orthopedics relies on close physical contact.
A sprained knee or ankle can only be diagnosed by feel and stress testing.
Excess fluid in a joint may appear as a swollen area, but the fluid would be difficult to appreciate on a video image.
Also, range of motion testing is difficult for a patient to demonstrate by themselves.
In addition, there are many conditions, such as a hot joint, which the patient may not feel are important to mention but are obvious in person.
While orthopedists understand and use the latest technology, we consider telehealth a tool among many that cannot replace the in-person clinical examination.
To schedule an appointment, call one of our convenient locations or visit us online at www.lowerbuckshosp.com.
Lower Bucks Hospital, Bristol: (215) 785-9818
Town Center Drive, Langhorne: (267) 789-2074
PHOTO CAP: Dr. Menachem M. Meller, M.D., Ph.D., FAAOS, Orthopedic Surgeon