If you're getting treatment for mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), your doctor may want you to make fewer office visits to lower your chances of catching COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. One key tool they may turn to is a virtual appointment called "telemedicine" or sometimes "telehealth."

These types of appointments can help you avoid contact with someone who may spread the coronavirus. That's important because your cancer and its treatments put you at higher risk for infections.

With your smartphone, tablet, or computer, you can meet with your doctor face-to-face from home.

Telemedicine may be an option for follow-up visits that don't involve blood tests, scans, or treatments like chemotherapy.

People who've tried telemedicine say the quality of the visits is just as good as when they see their doctor in person. Plus, telehealth is much more convenient.

Medicare and many private health insurance companies will now cover telemedicine visits because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Some will waive all out-of-pocket costs. So you won't have to pay more than you would for a regular office visit.

What to Do Before Your Telemedicine Visit

Your doctor will schedule an appointment time, just as if you were going to the office. A staff member will tell you what kind of technology you'll need, which could include:

  • Smartphone, tablet, or laptop
  • Reliable internet connection
  • Speakers or headphones
  • An account with your doctor's electronic health record system (like MyChart) or other online system
  • Video conferencing app like FaceTime, Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Skype
  • Thermometer, blood pressure cuff, or other device to measure your vital signs

Your doctor's office will send you the forms you'll need to check in ahead of time. You need to test your phone or computer setup a day or so before your visit.

How to Prepare for Your Virtual Visit

To get the most from your appointment, put your phone or computer in a quiet room. Turn off any sources of noise like the air conditioner or TV. Place a light close to you so your doctor can see you clearly.

You may want to be alone if you plan to discuss personal information. Or you can invite a family member to join you.

The average telemedicine visit lasts only about 20 minutes. Gather everything you'll need for the appointment ahead of time. Have a paper and pen to take notes, and a list of all your current medications. Write down any questions you want to ask and any problems you need to discuss.

During Your Visit

At your scheduled appointment time, you'll click on a link in an email or an app to start your visit. This link will take you to a screen where you can see your doctor, and your doctor can see you.

A telemedicine visit is a lot like an in-person visit. Your doctor will review your medical records and ask how you feel. Some parts of the physical exam can be done over video. For example, your doctor might look at the lymph nodes in your neck or under your arms, or check your belly for swelling.

You'll discuss your treatment plan and whether you have any questions or concerns about it. Your doctor will make sure that you have enough of your medicine to last until your next appointment.

At the end of the visit, you'll get follow-up instructions about any tests or treatments you need. The doctor will also let you know when to schedule your next visit.

What to Talk About

Here are a few things you may want to discuss during your telemedicine visit:

  • What do my recent test results mean?
  • Which other tests do I need? When should I have them?
  • How can I manage symptoms like nausea, fever, night sweats, diarrhea, and tiredness?
  • Is my lymphoma treatment working? If not, do I need to change the dose or switch to a different drug?
  • How can I get enough calories and nutrients if I don't feel hungry?
  • What side effects might my treatment cause? How can I manage them?
  • When should I schedule my next visit with you?

 

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