When the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, plastic surgeons all over the world, including our NW Indiana plastic surgery practice, began utilizing telemedicine to care for patients. Before this, we occasionally would use video conferencing or other methods outside the office to “meet” with prospective patients about their goals but, this was (and still is) followed by an in-person consultation before any cosmetic surgery procedure such as a liposuction, facelifts or even the introduction of anti-aging injections, such as Botox, Juvéderm and dermal fillers to address facial aging.
When our office was closed for a time, we offered video conferencing (i.e., telemedicine) to those who wanted a plastic surgery consultation, as well as some in need of post-surgery follow-up care. We still provide virtual consultations to those who request it, even though our office is now open. Thorough risk-containment has been in place, such as the use of masks and our already-thorough office cleaning protocols. The ability for our patients to benefit from our advanced professional care (and for our staff to give it) while simultaneously lowering the risk of virus exposure has been reassuring both to our staff and our patients. Even after the risks of Covid-19 exposure have lessened, many may wish to continue the use of telemedicine.
The Benefits of Telemedicine
Telemedicine is Safe
Telemedicine enables physicians, their staff members and their patients to connect with each other for consultations and/or post-op visits without having to meet in the office. This greatly lowers the risk of Covid-19 exposure for all of us, without delaying care. Several studies have shown that telehealth technologies are highly reliable when it comes to identifying certain post-operative complications, such as slow wound healing, for example.
Telemedicine Expands Accessibility
Because some of our NW Indiana plastic surgery patients live far away, telemedicine offers them the option of a consultation that includes video as well as audio, allowing my staff and me to evaluate their needs. This benefit also applies to patients who want a second opinion about a previous surgery.
Telemedicine Saves Time and Money
The cost of travel is eliminated when telemedicine video conferencing is offered. This is important for those who live outside the NW Indiana metro but benefits patients with young children at home, as well. It saves the costs and inconvenience of arranging childcare for appointments, and eliminates travel time, whether the patient lives within 10 minutes or 10 hours of our office.
The Downside of Telemedicine
Unfortunately, video conferencing does have limits. For example, in a procedure such as liposuction and post-bariatric surgery, it’s important that I evaluate my patient’s skin elasticity, which is difficult to do via telemedicine. We are also subject to the reliability of internet connections, which can cause interruptions, pauses and frozen screens.
Another drawback to telemedicine is the issue of privacy. Although we use only approved telemedicine platforms, we do live in a world in which online hackers and platform security issues can threaten our privacy. It is helpful to know that telemedicine service providers are working diligently to ensure robust security measures, but the concern persists among many.
I believe the use of telemedicine in the plastic surgery profession will continue. Our NW Indiana plastic surgery practice is committed to using this communication method so long as it proves beneficial and safe for our patients and staff.
To Your Health & Beauty,
Gus Galante, MD, FACS
Board Certified NW Indiana Plastic Surgeon