Call it a discovery of the obvious or a service hidden in plain sight.

When it comes to using Teladoc®, Allegheny County Schools Health Insurance Consortium (ACSHIC) just wants its members to call. The reason why? It’s good for your health, your peace of mind and your pocketbook.

Teladoc is a telemedicine service designed to enable the delivery of remote, non-emergency health care. A physician’s visit is delivered through telephone and video conferencing technology over a computer or handheld device that makes it possible for patients to receive treatment whenever and wherever they are located. All Teladoc doctors are U.S.-licensed physicians.

Using Teladoc is an easy process. Users create an account and then request an appointment. A Teladoc doctor contacts the patient and conducts the visit. Physicians diagnose symptoms, provide care recommendations and send a prescription to a pharmacy, if necessary.

Teladoc represents one of several health care options for ACSHIC employees and makes an excellent first choice for non-emergency conditions – cold and flu symptoms, allergies, pink eye, respiratory infection, sinus problems, rashes, etc.

Gateway School District elementary teacher Suzanne Dzvonick discovered just how helpful Teladoc could be. In the early winter months of the 2019-2020 school year she was frequently getting sick.

“That was unusual for me,” Dzvonick says.

Dzvonick decided to see her primary care physician. She has young children, and going to the doctor’s office means she either needs to organize time off from work or go after school. Like many working parents, she has a limited schedule.

In this situation, she had to sit in the waiting room for more than two hours and then felt she didn’t receive the care she needed. It was a lot of activity for a person to manage while feeling ill.

Two weeks later, Dzvonick’s colleague described her positive experience with Teladoc and suggested that Dzvonick try it. She did.

It took Dzvonick five minutes to fill out the form; and within 15 minutes, she received a call from the physician. The visit lasted about 10 minutes. About 15 minutes later, she received a prescription.

“The physician was responsive and kind. He asked questions about my current medication and my health history. It was such a smooth experience,” Dzvonick recalls.

Due to the pandemic, using technology to gain remote access to traditionally in-person services has become common. Dzvonick’s experience was in February. She admits that at the time she was aware of Teladoc, but hesitated to use it.

“Hearing someone who had used it with a great experience made the service feel more legitimate,” she says.

Not only is the experience efficient, effective and patient-centered, but it’s also more affordable than going to the emergency room (ER) or urgent care center, which should only be used with urgent and/or life-threatening conditions. Also, using Teladoc limits a person’s exposure to other illnesses. For annual exams and monitoring of ongoing conditions, Dzvonick still plans to see her primary care physician.

“Teladoc is a fantastic supplement to a PCP,” Dzvonick says. “I was so thrilled with its speediness and effectiveness and was sold right away. Don’t be hesitant to try it.”

CALLOUT

Teladoc is accessible several ways:

• Download the app available for iPhone and Android phones and devices.

• Call 1-800-TELADOC (835-2362)

• Go to teladoc.com

AL Telemedicine SIDEBAR 0720

Hed: She’s a believer

Dek: First skeptical, doctor now sold on telemedicine

By Michael Gilbert

With nearly three decades of experience working for the Allegheny Health Network, Dr. Jennifer Preiss describes herself as being “seasoned” in the medical industry.

“That’s my nice way of saying I’ve been doing this a long time,” jokes Preiss, who specializes in internal medicine and pediatrics.

Preiss has been treating her patients in-person, face-to-face inside her office at 651 Holiday Drive, Suite 100, Pittsburgh.

That began to change somewhat in March, once the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic -- and stay-at-home orders were issued. Many industries, including medical, had to make changes in an effort to protect and keep their employees, customers and clients safe.

The biggest change for Preiss is she began offering her patients the option to schedule a virtual visit. Initially, it took some time for her to get used to delivering health services remotely; but now, about two months in, Preiss is a believer.

“I love it,” she says. “I was so used to in-person visits that at first there was an adjustment period; but now I think it’s amazing.”

All members of the Allegheny County Schools Health Insurance Consortium are eligible to schedule a virtual visit. A smartphone, tablet or a computer is what is needed to connect with a healthcare professional. Those interested in a video visit should go to AHN.org/connect or download the MyChart app in the App Store or Google Play.

Preiss lauds the convenience of virtual visits, noting how it eliminates the need for a patient to drive to a doctor’s office, wait to see their physician and then drive home. She mentions how it can also replace most in-person consultations and follow-up visits.

Ailments commonly treated via a virtual doctor’s visit include allergies, colds and flu, rashes, sprains and strains and sports injuries. Preiss says it is helpful if a patient is able to weigh themselves and have had their blood pressure checked recently before logging on for a video call to share that information with their doctor.

“What’s nice is that with the video visit I can still see the patient and they can still see me,” Preiss says. “We can still go over their medical records just like a normal in-person visit. If they are experiencing a throat condition, I can ask them to cough to help me diagnose it; or if they have a rash, they can show me and I can identify it. The video visits have their advantages, but there are also limitations.”

The biggest limitation is that a full, comprehensive exam cannot be completed, Preiss says. Technology is another limitation. The patient must have a smartphone, iPad or computer, as well as internet or Wi-Fi access. While most have a computer or smartphone device, there are still some patients without them or who struggle with modern tech tools. Preiss typically sees between 12-15 patients daily, and she says roughly half are opting for the virtual visit.

“About 50 percent of my visits are now via video,” Preiss says. “Covid-19 patients are instructed not to see their primary care physician, so your doctor’s office is actually a pretty safe place. But we are still recommending people schedule virtual visits.”

In addition to keeping her patients healthy and safe with a virtual doctor’s visit, Preiss says she has enjoyed just being able to “see” her patients during this unprecedented time.

“My patient base includes great-grandmothers all the way down to newborns,” she says. “I’ve treated the whole family, and you really do develop a relationship with them; so it’s been nice to be able to find out how they are doing and have contact with them. I think [virtual visits] really strengthen the bond of primary care.”