The COVID-19 pandemic forcing many medical areas to go virtual, including orthopedics, explains why necessity is the mother of innovation. Orthopedic surgeons are now weighing in on several things, having witnessed orthopedic practices adapt to telemedicine technology. Some consider their practices sticking with telemedicine once the COVID-19 crisis period stops.
You may wonder how an orthopedic practice like lower back pain, injured knee, or rotator cuff tear works remotely. Yes. It is possible. But doesn’t delivering orthopedics via telehealth sound counterintuitive?
Historically, during orthopedic sessions, health practitioners use palpations, a technique of feeling using fingers during a physical examination. Typically, an orthopedic in-person appointment features front-end paperwork, MRIs or X-rays, and a physical palpation examination. So, what does it mean to incorporate and address these steps in a virtual telehealth session?
What are the Protocols?
Several protocols can help virtual orthopedic visits run smoothly. Patients have to receive directions on preparing for the virtual appointment in advance. This includes ensuring they have access to a sufficient high-speed internet connection to support an uninterrupted video call and preparing for the physical space so that the doctor can easily monitor and access their movements. For instance, the patient needs to be around 6 feet from the camera for a knee injury case, which should be 2 feet off the ground level.
That’s not all. Shorts are also necessary for patients with knee injuries. They have a simple household item to use as a weight (like a stapler or a water bottle). The orthopedist will effectively evaluate the patient with this kind of prep work.
Palpating the area in a virtual session involves resistance work or self-palpations. The orthopedist coaches the patient through specific movements and accesses their mobility or lack of it while comparing one side to the other. Based on their observation, the orthopedist can share the screen and revise the patient’s already done MRIs or X-rays and have a discussion.
Despite the power of telemedicine technology and its above-described protocol, it makes sense to make the first orthopedic session in-person and the subsequent visits virtual if the patient is okay with a physical visit.