We offer breast reconstruction, reconstructive surgery for head and neck cancers, micro surgery and hand reconstructive surgery.
Tele-health consultations provide many opportunities in our socially distanced world
There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has put many things into a holding pattern, but tele-health has allowed the virtual doors of Valley Plastic Surgery to remain open for patients. In many ways, this time of social distancing affords a great opportunity to explore some of those health concerns you’ve been putting off or even to consider the possibility of elective, reconstructive or cosmetic procedures.
Telehealth’s existence can be dated from the 1960’s with one of the earliest applications being the monitoring of the physiological parameters of astronauts. Over the years, thanks to technological advancement, there has been a number of tools and applications implemented to enable the transfer of patient’s information for recommendations and consultations across almost every medical environment and specialty. Tele-health services for patients have also been able to provide remote monitoring of the patient, consumer health communication and medical education. Typically, delivery techniques include networked programs that link tertiary medical centres to outlying centres and clinics in rural areas, home phone-video connections, point-to-point connection to hospitals and clinics, web-based e-health services and also home monitoring systems.
Video-conferencing is one of the main ways in which tele-health is improving access to healthcare services for patients who live in regional, rural and remote areas and in fact, tele-health consultations are nothing new for Valley Plastic Surgery; our surgeons have been offering tele-health consultations to interstate and regional patients for a while now.
But can patients expect the same experience as sitting across from their surgeon?
Dr Matthew Peters explains that largely, a tele-health consultation is the same as a face-to-face consultation scheduled in the clinic.
“The sessions are still one-on-one, and we cover absolutely everything we need to talk about. The only difference is that we are not physically sitting across from one-another,” explains Dr Peters.
“People would be surprised how much of the examination I can still undertake. From a clinical perspective, the only thing that is somewhat limited is the ability to measure my patients precisely for procedures, but even so, these measurements are something I would very carefully capture and mark again immediately prior to surgery.”
During any consultation at Valley Plastic Surgery, it’s the verbal components that are key. The surgeons want to ensure that the procedure at hand is thoroughly discussed with their patient, along with the options available to achieve that desired outcome and also the risks, expectations and plan for recovery. And in that sense, the quality of verbal interaction doesn’t change whether talking via tele-health or by being in the same room.
“If someone were considering something such as a breast augmentation prior to the summer holidays,” explains Dr Peters, “then now is a great time to discuss the procedure, read about the various techniques we might be able to use to create the desired outcome and then take any time necessary to contemplate that information and become fully versed in the options. We have always recommended people go away and conduct their own research on any procedure they are considering.”
It’s important to note that tele-health consults are a direct line – be it video or audio – between the patient and the surgeon and in that sense, your surgeon is still able to create a private and personalised environment. There is no one else in the room and you can comfortably and confidentially discuss anything.
Dr Raymond Goh believes tele-health consultations are a very welcome practice at this point in time.
“By utilising tele-health, we’re able to abide by the safety precautions and measures that are necessary for us – as a country – to combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Dr Goh. “And just as importantly, a by-product of that is we are keeping our patients and staff safe.
“In my experience, our patients have been very grateful that we can achieve a ‘business as usual’ mentality, just via social distancing through tele-health technology. No one needs to be unnecessarily exposed to unsafe external elements and particularly those patients who might be a bit more vulnerable or susceptible to contracting the virus.”
Dr Goh concurs with Dr Peters. “If I have a GP’s referral letter, your pathology and photographs of the lesion, then I have everything already in front of me to make informed surgical decisions and treatment and management plans,” explains Dr Goh. “In the case where we are talking about the category 1 and 2 surgeries, we can discuss and plan those necessary procedures via tele-health, get you into a COVID-free hospital facility for a day procedure and then send you home. From start to finish and to the best of our ability, we have minimised your exposure to the virus but also undertaken a surgery that was deemed necessary so as your health does not deteriorate.”
Considering elective procedures:
When we’re talking about elective procedures, such as rhinoplasty, facial surgeries and breast reductions or augmentations to name a few – Valley Plastic Surgery can completely understand that a patient wants their surgeon to be able touch, see and measure the area of concern in person; this is how they’ve come to know the process of a personal consultation. However, in those early discussions the main focus is often a patient’s suitability for the procedure and also discussing estimates, timeframes and answering questions about techniques.
“I say to my patients, now is a great time to become comfortable with the information we are presenting and also gain the luxury of planning,” explains Dr Goh. “As surgeons, we will always require appointments in person closer to the actual surgery, so I think these initial tele-health sessions are a great use of time.
“There are many things in the world at the moment which might be a bit unclear, but taking control of your health can bring some clarity and stability to your day-to-day life,” suggests Dr Goh. “This can actually be a good opportunity to explore some of those elective procedures and taking the time to research and consult about your health or possibility of reconstructive or cosmetic procedures does not have to be something that’s on hold.”
How to have a successful tele-health consultation:
- Prior to your session, send us as many photos of the area of concern as possible.
- Additionally, if you have any other pathology or doctor’s letters that are relevant to the procedure, make sure they have been emailed in. Having all the information at hand that is necessary for us to assess your case and make informed decisions is not only helpful but also an efficient use of your time.
- Similar to a face-to-face consultation, it’s important to have thought about the goal of the procedure you’re considering. How would you describe the outcome you’d like to achieve?
- Take a moment to write down all your questions or concerns prior to your tele-health session.
- Sounds obvious but have a pencil and paper to take notes and also make sure you’re in a place free from distractions and noise. After all, we’re trying to replicate the environment of our clinic rooms, which are private, safe and a time just for you.
(Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.)