What, Why, & How of Telemedicine Visits

​Dr. Daniel Cotrell describes Telemedicine visits, why they are helpful, when they should be used, and how to arrange and prepare for a Telemedicine visit.

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Begin Transcript

Bridgette Butler:  Hello, and welcome to this Health Plus "Healthier Than You" wellcast.  Today, we are talking about telemedicine.  It's a good option to easily interact with your healthcare provider.  And here to speak with us today about telemedicine is Dr. Daniel Cottrell, Assistant Professor of Clinical Internal Medicine.  Welcome, Dr. Cottrell.

Dr. Daniel Cottrell:  Thank you.

Bridgette Butler:  We are glad you are here today.  And to begin, what exactly is a telemedicine visit?

Dr. Daniel Cottrell:  It's a great question.  Thank you for asking.  So, a telehealth or telemedicine visit is a visit with your regular provider, but it's done virtually through the Internet.  It's going to be using a camera, like a videochat you might do with a friend or a family member.

Bridgette Butler:  Great, and what are the advantages of a telemedicine visit?

Dr. Daniel Cottrell:  So, the biggest advantage is in our current situation with the coronavirus, this allows us to keep our patients at home, yet still reach out to them to provide them a health assessment.  In particular, for patients who may think they are sick with this virus, this allows them to stay home and yet us evaluate them through history and observing them to decide if they should be tested at any of the many facilities in the state.  But telehealth is also for patients who don't have coronavirus concerns.  It's a way for us to reach out to patients and talk about their chronic health conditions.  And the biggest advantage is, they get to stay home, they don't have to put up with driving in, parking, dealing with elevators and waiting rooms where there might be social distancing concerns, but also just saving the time on the commute in general.

Bridgette Butler:  And what types of visits work well for telemedicine?

Dr. Daniel Cottrell:  Here at Vanderbilt, we are currently doing telemedicine visits for all regular office followups as well as our Medicare annual wellness exams.  For patients who have our Vanderbilt Aetna insurance, you may be able to do your regular annual exam through telehealth as well, but other insurance companies have to ... the patient will have to check with their insurance company to see if it's allowed.  We can do just about anything over telehealth (you'd be surprised), since a lot of what we do as providers is through our history gathering, asking questions to figure out what we think is going on with a patient, and then we can do some exam features by asking you to get up, move around, show us various things, palpate things or push on things on your own body and tell us how it feels.  We can get a good sense of what you might be dealing with.

Bridgette Butler:  Wonderful.  And does a telemedicine visit cost more than an on-site visit?  Is it something insurance would cover?

Dr. Daniel Cottrell:  Also a great question.  In the current situation with the coronavirus, the President has declared that telehealth visits are available to all patients.  There is no extra fee for this service.  The co-pay and co-insurance and deductibles that you would have paid for a normal office visit are all the same.  There are no extra fees.

Bridgette Butler:  That's fantastic.  And how do I set up a telemedicine visit with my doctor?

Dr. Daniel Cottrell:  So, you would request a visit with your doctor the same way you would always do.  You would either be calling or sending a message through your My Health at Vanderbilt.  That last part is key.  All patients must have a My Health at Vanderbilt account because the platform that we are using, the computer technology, goes through that My Health.  If you need help setting that up, you can also call us and we are happy to help in that way, too.  If you believe that there is a concern you are having that would better-served in the office, we are happy to see you at this time, too.  We are seeing a limited number of patients in the office with protocols in place to ensure everyone's safety.  But if you call us and tell us why you want to come, we might be able to review your chart and have your provider look at your request, and we might actually still be able to do that over telehealth.  You would be surprised.

Bridgette Butler:  That's great.  Thank you so much for the information today.  It sounds like a really great, wonderful option for seeing our doctors, particularly at this time, but even in the future.

Dr. Daniel Cottrell:  Thank you.