Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has become an increasingly popular option for nonemergency medical care. This includes the management of psoriatic arthritis.
Telehealth is sometimes also called telemedicine. It offers a safe and easy way to meet with a healthcare professional, such as a rheumatologist, dermatologist, or primary care doctor, all from the comfort of your home.
For people with psoriatic arthritis, telehealth can be a useful tool for treating or managing flares.
Psoriatic arthritis affects up to one-third of people who have psoriasis, an inflammatory skin condition. Psoriatic arthritis can include the skin rashes seen in psoriasis and the joint pain characteristic of inflammatory arthritis.
These symptoms can sometimes increase, resulting in psoriatic arthritis flares.
Since psoriatic arthritis is a chronic condition, regular medical care is important. Meeting with your doctor to talk about how your current treatment plan is working or how to modify it to better meet your needs can help reduce flares.
If you’re considering using telehealth for your next psoriatic arthritis care appointment, here’s everything to know about preparing for your visit.
Note that for very serious concerns, such as rapidly worsening symptoms, it’s a good idea to call your doctor. They can help you decide whether an in-office visit is necessary.
Some chronic conditions may be more difficult to diagnose and treat through a computer screen, but the common symptoms of psoriatic arthritis tend to be more visible than those of other autoimmune diseases. This generally makes telemedicine a fine option for those managing the condition.
Instead of going to the doctor’s office, your appointment will be virtual. This can be done through a smartphone, desktop or laptop computer, or a tablet. It can be done anywhere.
In fact, the only basic requirement is a good internet connection.
Your doctor’s office will give you instructions for how to begin the telehealth appointment. Zoom is a popular video conferencing tool, but there are also other easy-to-use platforms.
Having the video turned on is generally preferred for most telehealth appointments. However, in some cases, like a prescription refill, audio alone may be OK. Your doctor will let you know what’s preferred.
Preparation is a key part of making sure your telehealth appointment goes well.
You should always have your photo identification and insurance information available, especially if you’re seeing a new doctor or have an appointment with a new healthcare practice.
Before your appointment, think about any questions or concerns you’d like to discuss. An easy way to keep track of the things you want to talk about is to take notes that you can reference during the appointment.
Your treating physician will likely ask about your symptoms, your medication use, and how you feel overall, so it’s important to have answers ready.
Consider using a symptom tracker, either through a smartphone app or by writing down your symptoms in a daily journal. This way, if your doctor asks specific questions about when and where the symptoms started to show up, you’ll have a handy timeline to help you give accurate answers.
A detailed timeline may help you and your doctor understand any changes or possible triggers for your flares.
Even though your medical appointment will most likely take place over video with cameras on, a telehealth visit isn’t the same as a healthcare professional seeing your skin in person.
You may be asked to show a rash on your hand or arm during the appointment, but it will be a better exam if you also take a few pictures of problem areas.
Some symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, like mild to moderate inflammatory pain or fatigue, can’t be shown in photographs or in person, whereas others, like skin rashes or lesions, can.
If you have a smartphone with a built-in camera, you can get good quality photos if you keep a few tips in mind:
- Take a close-up of the visibly irritated area.
- Snap a second shot from farther away to show any contrasts between affected and unaffected areas
- Take a photo of both sides of your body, even if symptoms are only affecting one side.
- Make sure you have good lighting.
- Minimize distracting visuals so it’s easier for the doctor to focus on what you’re trying to show.
- Try to take high resolution photos for clear results and fine details
Photos can help with an initial diagnosis and with managing treatment and care. An administrator may instruct you to take pictures in advance and send them before the appointment, or the doctor may want to look at them during your virtual visit.
Treating the telehealth appointment like an in-person visit is important for best results.
Just like you wouldn’t be texting or making breakfast in the exam room, you shouldn’t multitask during a telehealth visit either. Do your best to be present during the video chat.
Try to find a quiet space free of any noise or distractions. Ask family members or roommates not to interrupt you for the duration of your meeting, if possible.
A well-lit location for your telehealth appointment is helpful, too. That way, you can show your doctor any visible symptoms or changes, aside from the photos.
Finally, right before the scheduled appointment, double-check that your internet is working and your connection is stable.
Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to a productive telehealth visit with your doctor.
For some, telehealth can be a great asset in managing a chronic condition like psoriatic arthritis. It’s convenient and safe, and it helps lower possible exposure to common colds, flu, and other viruses.
Telehealth can also be helpful if you’re experiencing a psoriatic arthritis flare that makes leaving your home a painful or uncomfortable experience.
Studies also show that telehealth can be just as effective as in-person medical care for managing psoriatic arthritis.
Telehealth for psoriatic arthritis is a safe and convenient way to meet with a healthcare professional to manage your condition.
By taking steps in advance to prepare for your appointment, you can help make a telehealth visit just as productive as an in-person visit with the doctor. This can then lead to long-term success in your care.