While we’re trying to stay home as much as we can, health care shouldn’t be sacrificed, and telehealth options make keeping up with doctor’s appointments possible.
Simply getting in the car and going someplace as ordinary as the grocery store is a risky endeavor these days. That’s not apt to change any time soon given that COVID-19 rates are skyrocketing across the nation and a vaccine is still likely months away for most of us.
Continued social distancing where able should be our priority – but what if you’re an expectant mother in her third trimester? Or a woman dealing with an issue that requires the assistance of an OB-GYN professional?
Telemedicine and digital physician visits might seem cumbersome and less than effective on the surface, but Ascension Medical Group physician and OB-GYN specialist Dr. Janet Mullings-Britton says that it can be a feasible option.
“Not only has the situation in the office space changed, the climate in many women’s homes has also changed. We see ripples from this such as an increase in pregnancy rates – albeit, not necessarily in safe or wanted conditions,” says Dr. Mullings-Britton, a fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“Women can’t come in for their routine breast and pelvic exams or lack access to child care, so they miss appointments. While we urge everyone to minimize social interactions, doctor’s visits should not be one of those. Women are often the chief cornerstone nurturers of our families and must be well.”
Telemedicine appointments are usually held over the phone or through video conference with your physician. Dr. Mullings-Britton says that she and the Ascension team have tried to keep things running as smoothly as possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual visits may improve access to routine health care for women encumbered by social distancing, work challenges, lack of transportation and child care needs.
“Telehealth is a useful, convenient alternative. Insurance, family planning and health screens get complicated when you mix in the natural distrust many in the community have for doctors and new technology. We try to be inventive, accommodating and caring,” she says.
Nothing will ever replace human touch and connection, which is pivotal to healing, and Dr. Mullings-Britton cautions that there are some issues which still require physical, in-person attention and assessment. However, she says telemedicine is an accessible tool which can increase the chances of a situation being resolved or diagnosed expeditiously. Telemedicine isn’t just for the body’s ailments, either.
“The isolation takes its toll on everyone, but again, for women who may be at home in less than ideal situations, stressors mount – and it can start to really negatively impact one’s mind. For many of my patients, video visits are a way to connect and dialogue with someone, even if but for a few minutes out of the day,” she says. Dr. Mullings-Britton says that the most important thing for physicians to remember during this time is to be understanding of their patients’ circumstances, reservations and fears.
“The last thing we want people doing is neglecting their health because they’re afraid, anxious or disconnected due to the pandemic. I’ve had patients reject treatment until what was deemed a nonacute symptom became critical simply because they didn’t know who to trust or what to do. Having doctors who mirror you and who have experienced some facets of life the way you have, certainly is impactful. If you haven’t walked a mile in my shoes, how can you best help and fully identify with me?”
The crucial thing to recognize is that there are new avenues emerging every day and innovative assistance becoming available. Dr. Mullings-Britton says we must take care of ourselves as best and as completely as we can. “Holistic remedies won’t replace conventional medicine, but I can’t say there’s anything wrong with trying to boost your immune systems with adequate sleep, exercise, water, elderberry, zinc and echinacea,” she says.
“Paramount to optimizing one’s health is stability of spirit, mind and body. Get some vitamin D and C as safely as you can. Bask in the sunshine. Do things that make you happy, and give your body what it needs.”
Get more health information and find a doctor near you by visiting ascension.org/michigan or calling 866-501-DOCS (3627).