The CDC recommends that you stay home as much as possible during the COVID-19 outbreak to lower your chances of getting the virus. People with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) have a higher chance of infection. But while going to the doctor’s office for your appointments may be a challenge right now, telemedicine can help you and your treatment stay on track.
With this new technology, you can continue to manage your CLL while staying clear of people and places that could raise your chances of infection.
How It Works
Telemedicine is a way for you to connect with a doctor or health care team from the comfort of your home. You can have a telemedicine visit using a:
- Computer or laptop
You can use it for regularly scheduled appointments, to discuss lab results, ask questions about symptoms or treatment side effects you’ve noticed with your CLL, to get referrals to specialists to help with your CLL care, or for virtual emergency room visits. If you’re in a CLL support group or getting counseling, that may also be available through a telehealth appointment.
There are many different kinds of connections you can make with your health care team using telemedicine. You can:
- Meet in real time using video and audio.
- Send and receive labs and images.
- Leave written or audio messages through an online portal or other messaging service.
Your doctor may also be able to use technology to monitor your health from afar. Remote patient monitoring uses digital tools to collect and send your health data to your doctor. Different devices may be available to track your information, including:
- Vital signs
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- Blood oxygen levels
- Heart rate
You may need to download an app or register for your clinic’s telemedicine service. Contact your doctor’s office to find out which platform they use.
Make The Most of Your Virtual Visit
Once you know what your visit will be about, follow this checklist to get ready:
Be sure your issues are right for telemedicine. Call the clinic where you get your CLL treatment before you schedule your appointment so you can be sure that you can get the care you need virtually. With any type of cancer, you want to make sure that you don’t miss any in-person treatments that you need.
Test your technology. Make a video call to test your computer, tablet, or smartphone sound and video quality. Also, be sure your internet connection is solid. Troubleshoot any problems beforehand so you can maximize your time with your doctor.
Find out about fees. Your insurance may or may not cover your virtual visits. Check with your provider to learn their policy on telemedicine coverage. The federal government has temporarily expanded Medicare coverage to include telemedicine visits during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Pick a private space. Decide on a quiet, well-lit space where you can have uninterrupted time with your doctor. Headphones can help you hear the information you need while keeping the conversation between the two of you.
Gather what you need. Your visit may bring up questions about insurance or medical history, as well as your CLL symptoms and treatments. If you have records that can provide the info you need, have them handy. You may schedule your next appointment during your visit, too. So keep your calendar close by.
Before you log in for your first visit, you’ll want to be sure everything’s in place. Create a list of the symptoms you have and any questions you need answered. Your doctor will ask you about your health, too. Questions might include:
- Have you had fevers or chills lately?
- Do you have a cough?
- Are you congested?
- Have you lost weight since your last visit?
- Do your gums bleed when you brush your teeth?
- Have you been having any nosebleeds or easy bruising?
- Do you get lightheaded?
- Have you noticed any shortness of breath recently?
- Are you unusually tired?
- Have you had abdominal pain or swelling?
- Have you noticed swollen lymph nodes?
As with any in-person doctor visit, you should also feel free to ask any questions or bring up topics that are on your mind.