With the coronavirus pandemic still developing and social distancing rules in place, life has taken an odd, albeit temporary, turn. And as a result, many people are left wondering how they can adjust their routines and continue to perform many of the tasks of daily living.
Fortunately, the internet has made adapting much easier: groceries, household goods, pet products and prescription medicines can all be ordered online and delivered, either through the mail or by in-person delivery services. Many employees are able to work from their homes, avoiding their daily commutes and their office cubicles. But what about doctor visits? Can you still get routine orthopedic care during the COVID-19 outbreak? Thanks to telemedicine, you can.
Here at OrthoIllinois, we’ve rolled out a new telehealth program that allows patients at our Rockford and Elgin offices to have online doctor visits right from the comfort of their own homes. Here’s how it works — and why it’s especially important during the current COVID-19 outbreak.
Coronavirus: Why online doctor visits are important
At OrthoIllinois, we want every patient to get the care they need, when they need it. But coming to our offices in Rockford and Elgin isn’t always convenient — and depending on your needs, it might not always be necessary. Many orthopedic conditions can be evaluated using your computer or cellphone to connect directly with Dr. Van Thiel.
So, what is an online doctor visit? An online doctor visit (or virtual doctor visit) is just what it sounds like: You “visit” with your physician using your home computer or your mobile phone. With telehealth, you still get the individual attention you’d receive during an in-person visit, but you won’t need to leave your home. Just like a regular office visit, your online doctor visit at OrthoIllinois is completely confidential. Plus, our system uses state-of-the-art encryption and security software to ensure your information is kept private, so you can feel confident and relaxed about your care. You can visit the doctor online from your home, when you’re traveling — wherever you have an internet connection.
COVID-19: Preventing infection and staying healthy
Under “ordinary” circumstances, convenience is one of the big benefits of seeing a doctor online. Right now, though, telehealth services are especially important. By seeing a doctor at home, you can get medical care without increasing your risk of infection. Social distancing guidelines recommend maintaining a distance of at least six feet from other people, including those who don’t have any symptoms. Many authorities are also asking people to stay home whenever possible to avoid becoming infected. That’s because COVID-19 (also called SARS-CoV-2) is very contagious, spreading easily from one person to another.
So how do people “catch” COVID-19? Data show this coronavirus infection is spread in two primary ways:
Breathing it in
Researchers think this is how most COVID-19 infections are transmitted. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the tiny virus becomes airborne. Once it’s in the air, you can breathe it in and become infected. Social distancing helps people avoid breathing in the virus if someone sneezes or coughs. However, data indicate the virus can remain alive in the air forabout three to four hours. That means you might still inhale the virus particles even if you’re not in the area at the time an infected person sneezes. This is one big reason why governments are asking people to stay home as much as possible to help prevent infection.
Through physical contact with a contaminated surface
Surfaces can be infected when they’re touched by someone who has the virus on their hands or when airborne viruses land on the surface. Most of us know that if we touch a surface that’s contaminated with flu or cold germs, we can wind up picking up those germs ourselves. Typically, that happens like this:
- We touch a contaminated surface.
- Germs transfer to our hands, which become contaminated.
- Later on, we touch our eyes, noses or mouths — areas that provide entry points to the internal parts of our bodies, including our airways and lungs. Once the germs “get inside” the body, we develop an infection.
Research shows COVID-19 can live on some hard surfaces for up to three days. That’s why it’s vitally important to wash your hands frequently, using the right technique (which you can see in this video.
Online doctor visits at OrthoIllinois: See your orthopedic doctor at home
Using precautions like the ones listed above is important for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases, like the flu. But it’s even better if you can reduce your exposures by restricting your activities — and that’s why authorities are recommending people remain in their homes as much as possible until the current COVID-19 epidemic is under control. While doctor visits are considered an essential (and allowable) reason for leaving your home during the outbreak, there’s no doubt that being out and about increases your risk for contracting any type of contagious illness, including COVID-19. So does sitting in a crowded waiting room.
Telemedicine at OrthoIllinois plays an important role in helping you get the orthopedic care you need during the COVID-19 outbreak. By getting care at home, you don’t have to worry about social distancing, and you also reduce outside exposure to the virus. To have an online doctor visit, all you need is a mobile phone or a computer with a webcam and microphone capabilities. Today, most computers have these features built in). You schedule a visit, just like you do with a regular in-person appointment. And when that time arrives, you simply login and connect with your doctor.
Even though telemedicine has been used for some time, it’s still “new” to lots of patients. Our telemedicine system is easy to use, and our team is on hand to help make your online doctor visit a simple, frustration-free experience. To learn more about our telehealth program or to schedule an online doctor visit with Dr. Van Thiel, call our office at 815-398-9491. For more resources about COVID-19, including information on symptoms and guidelines on prevention, visit our dedicated COVID-19 page, as well as these links from the CDC: