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Ask the Health Leaders: Telehealth or In-Person?

Last updated: November 2022

Technology has come a long way, and we now have the option to receive care from medical professionals in the comfort of our own homes. The convenience is undeniable. Schedules are more flexible, travel doesn't factor in, and more. But are we losing anything in the process of switching from in-person to virtual?

We asked our health leaders: Do you prefer in-office visits vs. virtual visits? What are the pros and cons for you?

Reply from Ella

There are pros and cons to both virtual and in person visits. I like the convenience of virtual visits because I can easily fit them into my work day. On the other hand, they can feel like a waste of my time, because it’s just a check in. My treatment plan is typically always the same and my health is fairly stable, so there are infrequently items that need to be discussed and addressed with my care. This fact makes me less inclined to schedule virtual visits and just skip them.

When in person visits are scheduled, it feels like more of a checkup where my health is more thoroughly examined. I do a breathing test when I go in person into the clinic and the results are discussed. When they are virtual, I am to use my at home spirometer, which I am less inclined to do because I don’t feel it is as accurate, and there isn’t a discussion about it on the virtual visit. In general, for more personalized care, I prefer in person visits.

Reply from Moriah

That's a hard one. Virtual visits are definitely more convenient, especially given that I live so far from my clinic (about a 3-hour drive one way). In-office visits, though, I feel are more thorough. I'm able to get any testing done that's needed (labs, spirometry, etc.), from which I typically receive quicker feedback. Plus, since I live so far away, I take the opportunity to treat myself to a meal that wouldn't be available to me in my small, rural town (usually sushi or Indian food).

Reply from Janeil

Since my diagnosis in 1994, I have attended the same CF clinic for 26 years. In that way, every time I have a clinical visit it’s a time to catch up with my friends. I love the social and comforting aspect of clinic visits. I know that my medical care is as important to them as it is to me because they care about me as a person.

However, I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked virtual visits once they became more normal during the pandemic. As a mom with two young children, a virtual visit was much more convenient for me. A virtual visit meant I didn’t have to find childcare, commute 30 minutes to and from the clinic, and could use my time more wisely. Especially during home IVs where there’s a visit once a week with my doctor, it made managing my care so much easier.

Reply from Meagan

In an ideal world, virtual visits would be the preferred method. They are far less disruptive to our schedules and less sitting around in the waiting and exam rooms. During cold and flu season, there would be less exposure to germs. However, in reality, we prefer in-office visits. We feel more at ease getting eyes on Margo every three months and her CF clinical team examine her in person. It’s also a way to do the throat swab to test for pseudomonas and other bacteria growth.

There are definitely cons to in-office visits, though. Margo’s clinic is 45 minutes away with no traffic. The visits are long with a lot of boring grown-up talk and waiting around. She also has to get that aforementioned throat swab, which doesn’t feel good. She’s still getting used to doing her Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs) so they don’t cause her much stress at this point, but we realize they could be anxiety-provoking someday. Overall, we always leave clinic feeling mentally spent, and depending on what news we might have received during the visit, emotionally drained as well.

Reply from Katelyn

I love both kinds of visits! During in-office visits you can see everyone (nurses, RTs, dieticians, pharmacists, phlebotomists, etc.), catch up, and reconnect if you haven’t seen them for a month or two. But one thing I love about telemedicine, or virtual visits, is that I don’t have to drive the few hours there and few hours back home after my appointment. Instead, I can pull up Zoom on my phone or laptop, while sitting on my couch holding my cats. Plus, with at home PFT machines my CF team and I can keep track of my lung function if I can’t make it to clinic for an appointment. I love both types of visits for different reasons and am thankful that I have access to both.

Response from Nicole D

It’s amazing how much the COVID pandemic has shifted the way we manage things in our lives, including virtual doctor visits. During the peak of the pandemic, I had a couple virtual visits with my CF care team over Zoom as it was determined to be the safest at the time; as long as I was feeling fine.

I have mixed feelings on the virtual visits. They are much more convenient for sure: no time to travel to the office, no waiting time, appointments are very efficient with seamless transition to each member of the care team. Despite all this, something still felt missing to me. I much prefer to be seen by the team in person, especially having consistency with my PFT tests to truly detect if there have been any significant changes to my pulmonary function. (I live and die by my #’s for better or worse! Always have.)

In person connectivity is important to me; although having experienced the height of the pandemic, it is comforting to know there are alternate ways to be seen by the care team when extenuating circumstances arise.

How do you or your loved one prefer to receive care? Share your perspective below!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Cystic-Fibrosis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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