While patients and caregivers navigate the delivery of healthcare during the COVID-19 crisis, one thing has proven to be consistently effective in treating orthopedic conditions: telemedicine, or video chat, visits.
John Gray, 55, an avid golfer and skier, has been battling shoulder and spine pain for several years. Somewhat reluctantly, he recently reached out to his sports medicine surgeon, Dr. Charles Bush-Joseph, when his hip and groin pain was making it difficult to do his favorite activities.
“I was a little embarrassed to schedule an appointment considering the more pressing issues that people are dealing with now during this epidemic,” Gray explained.
Dr. Bush-Joseph encouraged him to connect via video to help ease his mind and provide him with some information about the cause of his pain. From laptop to laptop, Dr. Bush-Joseph was able to talk with Gray about his pain level and mobility. He instructed Gray to perform hip and leg movements in order to assess his range of motion and pain source.
Ultimately, Dr. Bush-Joseph concluded that Gray was experiencing arthritis of the hip joint and the next step should be an x-ray—and down the road an introduction to a joint replacement specialist.
“It just confirmed what I thought,” said Gray. “Once the quarantine is lifted, I will proceed with an x-ray and determine my next course of action.”
For other patients, pain-relieving treatment is provided on-screen.
Wayne Kuhaneck, 41, of Bolingbrook, had back pain that made it difficult to walk or move. Frustrated and seeking relief, he was referred to Dr. Madhu Singh, a rehabilitation and pain management specialist, who spoke with him about his pain and its specific location in his back. They talked via video: Kuhaneck from his cell phone and Dr. Singh from her laptop. After their visit, Dr. Singh recommended he connect with Dr. Tom Lotus, an orthopedic chiropractor specializing in the McKenzie Method of therapy, a fellow Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush physician, for treatment.
During their telemedicine appointments, Dr. Lotus evaluated Kuhaneck’s movements and description of any pain. He performed specific exercises and watched as Kuhaneck followed suit. Dr. Lotus provided his patient with a therapeutic at-home program to perform before the next appointment.
“I started with two therapy sessions a week and I’m now down to just one,” Kuhaneck said. “My back pain has gone away.”
He thinks telemedicine may even be the wave of the future for certain specialties.
For some patients, like soccer player Paige Sprout, 15, of Bloomington, IL, a video visit means saving travel time. Following successful hip labral tear surgery in February by Dr. Shane Nho, Sprout and her mom saved five hours round trip for her second post-surgery follow up visit.
“We thought it was so easy,” explained Tracy Sprout. “It was so great to be able to stay at home, log in remotely and have a very good conversation with Dr. Nho.”