Published on May 20, 2020
With many cancer patients—especially blood cancer patients—thought to be more immunocompromised and vulnerable to infection, including from the coronavirus, there’s hesitancy to come into the hospital or clinic for visits with our doctors. There are even concerns about coming in for a blood test or scan to inform the discussion with our doctors. Fortunately, telemedicine is playing a role now, and my first experience was a positive one.
I am living with two blood cancers, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and myelofibrosis. Before the pandemic hit, I received monthly infusions of immunoglobulin to boost my immune system and would get a blood draw at the same time for testing to monitor my status. That is all done at a nearby cancer clinic and not at the big cancer center down the highway. After each appointment, the data is entered into the center’s medical record system and alerts my doctors and nurses when it’s there.
This week, I felt comfortable getting the immunoglobulin infusion (IVIG) and the blood draw per usual, but with many precautions for me and the entire clinic staff. The following day I had my first telemedicine visit on my smartphone with Dr. Catriona Jamieson.
In advance of the appointment, an assistant called and instructed me how to prepare on the secure website and to e-sign various approval documents. A few minutes before the scheduled time, as instructed, I was holding my phone and on camera. Boom! Here comes Dr. J, and we were on a split screen just like CNN.
Dr. Jamieson had all my test results, as did I (from the MyChart portal), and we walked through them together as she explained what the results meant and pointed out trends. Fortunately, everything was positive. While she couldn’t listen to my heart or lungs or poke around to measure my spleen, we did cover a lot of ground. And she could see that I looked well. It was up close and personal and very efficient.
Next month, I will see some other doctors where physical contact is needed. I will be mindful of safety as they will too. But when they suggest a telemedicine visit, I will welcome it as a real improvement in doctor-patient contact in a digital age.
I believe, as we all get the hang of this, telemedicine is a great addition to the way we connect with our healthcare teams.
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