Telemedicine: How to Make It Work for Your Prosthetic Care
"I probably get fifteen to twenty texts a day from my patients," David Armstrong, DPM, MD, PhD and professor of surgery in Arizona said in an interview with Shalmali Pal. "Now that may seem like a drain on my schedule but it really isn’t. I can ask questions like ‘Are you wearing your removable boot [for offloading diabetic foot wounds] or do I need to put you in an irremovable total-contact cast?'"
It seems so natural to go on a video call to check in with our loved ones and friends. With the tech-driven world we live in today, a lot of people have a smart phone or tablet, as well as access to the internet. When was the last time you've had a Skype or FaceTime call with your prosthetist? David Armstrong is only one of the many doctors who have dipped their toes into telehealth and maximized the convenience technology gives us through quick calls and virtual meetings.
What Is Telehealth?
Telehealth (or telemedicine) “encompasses a broad variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services. Telehealth is not a specific service, but a collection of means to enhance care and education delivery”. Simply put, it is the use of technology and communication to help facilitate diagnosis, education, and management in health care. In the case of amputees who have frequent meetings with their prosthetists, telemedicine is the perfect way to cut down on travel costs and give both parties ample time to talk without the need to be in the same room. Instead of making appointments days or weeks ahead of time, telemedicine allows you to have a virtual consult at the push of a button.
What Can I Discuss with My Prosthetist through Telemedicine?
From a quick check-up to a more substantial conversation, here are some of the things you can discuss with your doctor via telehealth:
- Gait anomaly evaluation
- Checking your sock ply count
- Alignment checks
- Self-adjustment of your sockets with gel pads or other technologies like Revo
- Any questions you may have
- If you're a new amputee, having that quick connection with your prosthetist without the need to travel will really help you emotionally deal with everything you're going through
How Does Telemedicine Benefit Me?
Imagine your prosthetist adjusting your C-leg remotely, right from the comfort of your own home. Prosthetic sockets are getting smarter each day; with technology like SmartPucks and telemedicine, it’s only a matter of time before your prosthetist will be able to remotely diagnose your hardware.
Some may find telemedicine to be quite impersonal because it is conducted virtually, and others may feel more confident in seeing someone personally to get the answers they need. However, telemedicine can address all other things that do not require the time and effort necessary to travel to your prosthetist. Getting more virtual face time to reach out to your doctor can contribute to forming a better relationship with them which means better care for you.
Armstrong says, "The place for patients to heal is at home and with family. I think telehealth makes that more feasible." Telemedicine allows amputees to consistently stay in an environment where they feel safe and most comfortable—home.