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Learn how you can meet with your ostomy nurse online to get the care that you need.
By Karen Spencer, BN, ET
Many people may fear going to a doctor’s office, outpatient clinic, or hospital emergency room because they think they may contract COVID-19. In addition, everyone is being asked to social distance, wear a mask, and quarantine until a vaccine is available. All of this may prevent people with an ostomy from seeking assistance when they are experiencing pouching system failure or a peristomal skin complication.
A recent survey revealed that 31% of people with ostomies had in-person visits with a nurse in the year prior to COVID-19. This figure has now dropped to 5% during the pandemic.1
Virtual Health Visits, also known as telehealth, have emerged as lifesavers during this crisis. Conducted through a video and audio connection, a virtual visit allows you to interact with your ostomy nurse or healthcare professional in real time, from any location. Virtual health visits may help minimize the spread of COVID-19 by limiting face-to-face contact.
Below are some frequently asked questions about how virtual healthcare works, along with information on services and support that are available to you during the pandemic.
Q: Can I participate in a virtual health visit?
A: The answer is YES. You can participate in virtual healthcare, and you are not alone in asking this question. In a recent survey, 52% of people with an ostomy reported not knowing if telehealth was an option for their care.2. Today’s technology allows live, two-way communication over your computer, tablet, or mobile phone. You can use popular videoconferencing platforms – such as Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime. In addition, some healthcare facilities also have their own patient portals that can be used for this purpose. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can use a landline phone for an audio visit. Please talk to your healthcare professional to see which mode of communication may work for you.
Q: Will my health insurance cover virtual visits?
A: It is important to check with your insurance company to see if they have expanded their benefits to cover telehealth or virtual visits. Coverage may vary based on location and type of insurance. You can also visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website. CMS reviews Medicare Coverage and payment of virtual services.
Q: What do I need to participate in a virtual visit?
A: Your healthcare provider will be in touch prior to your virtual appointment to give you instructions. You will need a good Wi-Fi connection, a built-in webcam and, ideally, a device other than a desktop computer. I say that because your nurse will need to see your stoma, and it can be awkward to get yourself into position for a desktop computer’s camera to view your abdomen. A laptop, tablet, or smartphone may work best.
Be sure to have all of your ostomy supplies ready, as your nurse may ask you to change your pouch during the call. This will allow a complete review of your ostomy care routine, and an assessment of your stoma and peristomal skin. Also, consider where you will conduct your virtual visit. You may want to be in an area of your house where you’re comfortable changing your pouch (e.g., the bathroom).
In addition, you may want to have a pen and paper ready to write down any recommendations that your nurse has for you. You could also ask them to send you an email summarizing the visit, so that you remember important points that were discussed.
Q: Can my caregiver or family member participate as well?
A: It is your decision who will participate in your virtual visit. However, it is important to tell your nurse who will be attending with you. If the person is in a different location, your nurse will provide them with instructions on how to join the call.
Q: Is a virtual visit as good as being in-person, face-to-face with my healthcare provider?
A: Virtual visits offer many benefits, such as convenience for both yourself and the nurse and, of course, limiting your exposure to others during the pandemic. Although a virtual visit works best for services other than a hands-on physical examination, it does allow your nurse to visually observe your ostomy care routine, and assess your skin and stoma. While telehealth is a good option for many, it should be noted that not all visits can be delivered virtually. Please be sure to ask your nurse if you think an in-person visit would be better suited for you.
Q: Is there additional support available to me after my virtual visit?
A: Yes. Your healthcare professional may send you links to download helpful resources. You can also visit the Ostomy Care Quick Education Tools page on the Hollister website to view or download helpful materials, including stoma measuring guides, product usage instructions, and educational booklets.
In addition, patient programs can provide much needed support to those living with an ostomy. Hollister Secure Start services has provided uninterrupted support during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we find that patients are utilizing our services more than ever.
Q: What is the outlook for the ostomy community as the pandemic continues?
A: During this time, people with ostomies are likely accessing more and more information online. This includes checking the availability of their ostomy supplies and getting troubleshooting tips. For example, how should you manage red irritated skin around your stoma? This is why Hollister Incorporated has created a COVID-19 Support Hub, to provide additional support to people with an ostomy throughout the pandemic. In addition to this article, you’ll find lots of useful information that will help keep you feeling safe, reassured, and ready for the future. Hollister is here for you… no matter where “here” is.
Karen Spencer, BN, ET, is the Director of Global Clinical Education Ostomy at Hollister Incorporated. She has enjoyed nursing for 30 years in the specialty of ostomy care, and has extensive clinical experience in both community and acute care settings.
Please share this article with anyone you know who may benefit from information on virtual health visits and how they can help them continue their relationship with their healthcare provider.
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