Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the digestive tract. Symptoms can include stomach pain, diarrhea, and weight loss. It’s not curable, but symptoms can go into remission.
A gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases of the digestive system, can diagnose and treat Crohn’s disease. Scheduling ongoing follow-up appointments with your gastroenterologist can help monitor the condition and control flares.
But you might be uncomfortable with in-person visits due to COVID-19.
You don’t have to delay your Crohn’s disease checkups. Many doctors, including gastroenterologists, offer telemedicine. This is a type of virtual visit that’s done through your phone or computer.
There’s been an increase in these types of visits during the pandemic. It’s an option that helps you have a productive Crohn’s checkup while staying safe.
Here’s how to manage Crohn’s disease with telemedicine and how to make the most of your appointments.
Telemedicine, also called telehealth, involves the use of technology to deliver medical care. This technology can include video conferencing, phone calls, text messaging, and online portals.
Before the pandemic, telemedicine was largely used by people in rural and underserved communities. Today, many doctor offices offer telemedicine as a means to safely provide care.
Not only are these visits convenient, but they also reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading in waiting rooms.
Managing Crohn’s disease with telemedicine is similar to managing the disease through in-person visits. You can use virtual appointments to discuss symptoms, flares, and your overall health with your doctor.
You can contact your doctor’s office to set up a telemedicine visit, or schedule appointments via an online portal (if available). These portals can also provide information about past visits and test results.
During a telemedicine visit, your doctor can review your medical chart, answer your questions, and even write prescriptions.
The cost of a telemedicine visit will vary based on your insurance coverage. Before scheduling a virtual appointment, contact your insurance provider to confirm your out-of-pocket costs. If you’re covered for these types of visits, your copay might be the same as an in-person copay.
On the day of your appointment, have your insurance card nearby, as well as a debit or credit card for your copay.
Prepare in advance by writing a list of all medications you’re currently taking. Don’t forget to jot down any questions or concerns you have.
Your doctor may ask you to take your own vitals before the appointment. This includes weighing yourself and taking your blood pressure.
To get the most out of a virtual appointment with your gastroenterologist, choose a quiet location with good internet access. If possible, wear headphones during your appointment. This can make it easier to hear and communicate with your doctor.
Be prepared to take notes during your appointment. If possible, log on a few minutes early to give yourself time to troubleshoot in case you experience any technical problems. Keep in mind that you might need to download software for the appointment.
Telemedicine can be an option for follow-up when Crohn’s disease is stable.
Virtual appointments offer many benefits. You can speak with your doctor from any location, like from home or at work.
This is convenient since you don’t have to leave work and drive to your doctor’s office. And if you’re home, you don’t have to arrange child care.
Aside from telemedicine fitting easily into your schedule, another benefit is the ability to schedule appointments without risking exposure to viruses. This can happen when sitting in waiting rooms.
It’s also easy to ask a loved one to join in, ask questions, and take notes on your behalf. These days, some doctor offices have limits or restrictions on who you can bring with you to an in-person checkup.
Not every Crohn’s checkup can be virtual.
If you’re newly diagnosed or you’re having trouble managing Crohn’s disease, you likely need in-person assessment.
You’ll also need to schedule in-person appointments for all lab work and imaging tests.
If you don’t feel comfortable using technology or don’t have access to a reliable phone or internet connection, a telehealth visit may not be the right option for you. Some people also have concerns about sharing personal health data electronically.
If your health insurance doesn’t cover telemedicine visits, a virtual appointment can result in added out-of-pocket costs.
Even though telemedicine is an option for managing Crohn’s disease, it isn’t an option for everyone.
If you’re meeting with a gastroenterologist for the first time, or if you’re recently diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, your doctor may require in-person visits to establish care.
If you’re having trouble managing your symptoms, your doctor may also want to see you in their office.
In-person visits are necessary when your doctor needs to conduct a physical examination, lab work, or imaging tests.
Your doctor might also request an in-person visit if your symptoms start to worsen or aren’t responding to medication.
Crohn’s disease is a lifelong condition that has periods of remission and recurrent flares. Checking in regularly with your doctor is an essential part of managing your condition and its symptoms.
When Crohn’s disease is well-managed, telemedicine provides a great option for staying on top of routine care. If you’re newly diagnosed or having trouble managing your symptoms, your gastroenterologist may require an in-person visit.
Work with your doctor to determine which checkups can be done through telemedicine and which need to be scheduled as in-person visits.