As current circumstances continue to prevent patients from seeking care the traditional way, more and more studies are noting the benefits of telemedicine especially for conditions such as chronic pain. According to the latest report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 20.4% of the US adult population have some form of chronic pain. With telemedicine replacing most in-person visits, patients with this condition can avoid the hassles and stresses of typical doctor’s appointments which, in turn, contributes to improvement of the care management they receive at home.
What is telemedicine?
As the name suggests, telemedicine refers to the use of telecommunication technology and electronic information in delivering care to patients. In an article on HealthTech Magazine, Dr. Mariea Snell points out that though telemedicine has been around since the 1980s, videoconferencing tools like Skype and Zoom, as well as fitness wearables like Fitbits, have made it more effective for a wider range of medical concerns. Dr. Snell is a family nurse practitioner who sees patients using teletherapy and teaches the online RN to BSN program at Maryville University. For her, telemedicine has opened the doors for more patients seeking help — particularly those with limited access to health centers and the money to pay their fees. Since services are delivered remotely, a lesser charge for treatments can very much be a possibility, and patients are also spared the expenses of traveling to and from a healthcare provider. As telemedicine becomes even more prevalent, it will become even more common for insurers to cover telemedicine, too, further lowering the financial barriers to access.
Telemedicine and chronic pain management
Before patients started considering telemedicine as a viable way to communicate with their doctors, they often had to go through the process of making and physically going to appointments. The hassle of the commute, the long wait times, and the burdensome document-filing often contribute to the overall discomfort patients with chronic pain feel. At times, some patients even report feelings of anxiety and stress, which is especially worrisome if they cause even bigger mental health issues. Researchers from the University of Southern Denmar’s Department of Psychology, Sophie Lykkegaard Ravn, Thomas Cardel, and Tonny Elmose Andersen, emphasized how stress-related mood disorders intensify pain and other pain-related disabilities among individuals who have chronic pain.
This is where telemedicine can help. A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of California – Los Angeles explained how virtual visits to the doctor save patients from the stresses associated with in-person visits. The lead author of the study, Dr. Laleh Jalilian, further highlighted how telemedicine does this by relieving patients of the need to travel to and from the clinic. This, in turn, saves the patients time and money, as well as parking and gas costs. The study, which spanned over seven months and examined 2,950 virtual sessions, also reported that 92% of the patients said that they were satisfied with the telehealth option.
Aside from removing the stresses of in-person visits, telemedicine has also been able to help doctors immediately identify stressors through remote patient monitoring devices. The insights these technologies gather aid doctors in improving care and medication management. Other advanced technologies such as virtual reality (VR) are also being incorporated into telemedicine to help distract patients from pain and encourage them to participate in activities that can manage their condition. For instance, a study conducted by geriatric researchers from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Oskar Stamm, Rebecca Dahms and Ursula Müller-Werdan, mentioned how, with target-group-specific exercise applications, VR can be effectively used in pain therapy.
Without a doubt, telemedicine can be a great tool that can help pain management providers better connect with patients living with chronic pain during these trying times. You can make the most out of your telemedicine appointment by:
- doing a practice run;
- making your environment conducive for a video call;
- clarifying the steps you ought to take after the virtual visit; and
- clearly communicating what you feel with your healthcare provider.
As Stephanie Stern pointed out in our post on ‘Pain: The Importance of Open Communication’, all of these tips can help others get a better understanding of your pain.
Article exclusively submitted to paincommunity.org
Written by Riley June
AUTHOR BIO: As someone who has always been interested in all thing’s tech, Riley June often wonders how these endless innovations can be best utilized to improve the lives of those dealing with incurable diseases, some of whom are her family members. This interest fuels Riley June passion for telemedicine. In her free time, you can see Riley June hunched over her laptop sifting through articles that combine the things that interest her the most: tech and chronic diseases.