Getting to the doctor can be pretty nerve-wracking for anyone, but it’s especially challenging for me. I live with two co-occurring autoimmune diseases, along with generalized anxiety disorder. I also work full-time at a university library. In short, I’m tired.
Dragging my fatigued body to and from the doctor’s office is not exactly high up on my list of things I want to be doing, but therapy, for me, isn’t optional. So, when my psychiatrist started offering telemedicine (a fancy word for digital doctor appointments), I quickly took her up on the option.
Telemedicine doesn’t require much tech-savviness at all. To meet, my doctor uses a third-party telemedicine client, Chiron Health, which simply emails me a link to her calendar and to our appointment information. After I pay my copay (which is the same, for me, as an in-person appointment), it takes me to a teleconference screen where we can both see each other and talk to each other in real time.
There’s no noticeable lag in sound or video and we’ve only had technical issues once. Plus, I can access all of this using my phone, which has saved me on days that I’m unexpectedly not near a computer.
All of that is a real win, but at first, I was worried that there could be issues with the lack of in-person contact.
Would she still be able to read my body language? Would my symptoms be less apparent because she could only see part of my body? Would we meet as often? Was I still going to get the same quality of care as before?
In time, the answers became clear: If anything, the quality has improved. We meet more frequently now because this option has eliminated many physical and psychological access barriers. I’m even more inclined to make and keep visits because I know how easy it will be.
The video range is also generous. My doctor can see my entire upper body, whether I’m wringing my hands or getting weepy.
Above all, telemedicine allows me to remain in the comfort of my own home or office without having to waste precious time getting to and from the doctor’s. Even setting up the appointment is easier: I rarely have to call her office.
I’ve always felt like I’ve been chasing a sense of calm. With the exception of my therapist, doctors have only ever caused me anxiety—but telemedicine has been like salve on that wound.
When I leave a session, I can breathe. I come away feeling like I’ve addressed my mental health without the stress of logistics, and can immediately get back to work. It’s like a recalibration.
Of course, telemedicine is not a catch-all. If I need bloodwork done, for example, I still need to go see my primary care doctor.
There’s also a level of personal accountability that is necessary when it comes to using telemedicine. For example, it works for me because I know my body and am in sync with my wellness. I’m keenly aware of my ups and downs and I know how to communicate this without the physical proximity. Where others may need the in-person treatment, for me it removes barriers.
The option of logging onto my phone and talking to my doctor allows me to focus more on the issues I actually need to talk about, as opposed to the stress of getting there and rearranging my schedule to accommodate travel time.
It’s so, so important to find the right ways to heal ourselves—whether that means seeing a doctor in person or using your phone to keep on top of your well-being. It’s nice to have options, and I personally prefer digital therapy.