These FAQs are based on a recent podcast from the Urology Care Podcast called, Miscellaneous Urology Questions during COVID-19 with Dr. Brian Stork
Question: What are the COVID-19 risks a patient faces when entering a urologist's office?
As our knowledge of the virus and the pattern in which it's spreading has continued to evolve, we've gained a significantly better understanding of how the virus spreads, and as a result, we've been able to transition a lot of patients back into the office with a number of protective interventions.
For example, everyone who comes into the office should be asked to wear a mask. In the waiting room, there should be a 6-foot social distance requirement. Staff should be wiping down the surfaces that you touch after you touch them. The risks of acquiring COVID from an office visit should be very, very low given all of these preventative interventions that should be put in place.
Question: Can a patient safely delay a urology visit during COVID-19?
That depends on what the underlying urologic problem is. There's been a lot of concern amongst urologists, particularly with cancer patients about delaying office visits. At the same time, there's also concern that patients with cancer might be at higher risk of developing COVID. Whenver possible, for patients who are being treated for a urologic condition, a telehealth visit is probably the way to go when it's available.
In general, with the advent of telehealth, it's given everybody a lot more ability to see patients and get them in in a timely fashion. Urologists around the country are doing everything we can not to put patients in a situation where their care needs to be delayed.
Question: How would a urology patient know if their appointment can be done as a telehealth visit?
Not all urology offices across the country are currently set up to do telehealth visits, but that's rapidly changing with the advent of a number of platforms that urologists can now use to do those visits. But again, not every office is set up to do it. In addition, not every patient is set up to be able to do a telehealth visit in the sense that they may not have internet access, they may not have a mobile device, or they may have some personal restraints that inhibit their ability to do the visit.
All of that being said, the vast majority of patients can actually be seen via a telehealth visit. Really, the only reason that we would need to see a patient in the office during the pandemic would be for management of a catheter, or for a procedure, or for an office visit where we need to do a physical exam. And there may be some other similar reasons as well, but it is estimated that 80% of visits could be done via telehealth.
Question: How can a urology patient best prep for a telehealth visit during COVID-19?
The technology is changing. There are a number of platforms that physicians in medical practices are using for telehealth visits. Some of these platforms actually allow you to do a test visit before your actual telehealth visit. As we like to say in medicine, luck is where preparation meets opportunity. And so, when physicians and patients both prepare for their telehealth visits, the chances that their visit will go well are increased dramatically.
Patients can get information from their providers about which platform they prefer to use for the telehealth visit. They can prepare for the telehealth visit in many ways like they would prepare for a regular office visit by knowing their medications and by jotting down any changes in their symptoms that maybe they've had since their last office visit. It is a good idea for patients to log on to their telehealth visits early so that they don't wait until the last minute and perhaps have a technical issue at the last second. It’s also important for patients to remember that physicians have a telehealth schedule and that just like sometimes they run behind in the office, it's possible that they may run behind in their telehealth visits schedule as well.