What You Need To Know about Telehealth And Digestive Issues

March 25, 2021

Digestive issues can be very disruptive to everyday life. It can be very difficult to schedule doctor's appointments around your busy schedule. In recent years, telehealth services have become more accessible to patients for treating digestive issues. 

Telehealth may be the easiest solution to treating a digestive issue. It uses technology to deliver patient care and consultations. Telehealth appointments are a fast and easy way to stay safe and work around a tough schedule. Telehealth has also been shown to keep patients and providers satisfied.

In this post, we will discuss what telehealth means, how it can be challenging, and what types of digestive issues can be discussed via a telehealth appointment. We will also compare telehealth to in-person care and how you can find telehealth services available in Connecticut. 

What Is Considered A Telehealth Service?

Telehealth services are any medical appointment that uses technology as the main medium for communication between patient and doctor. There are quite a few modalities in which you can talk with your doctors about your digestive issues. 

This can include using any of the following right from your desktop, laptop, or phone:

  • Email 
  • Secure messaging
  • Video or audio calls 

Is Telehealth Vital For Treating Digestive Issues?

Many studies have shown that telehealth services are important in treating digestive issues. Telehealth services have almost become a standard of care during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, for years now, there has been a strong push to improve the United States healthcare system. 

The improvements that are necessary for a better United States healthcare system fall into the following three categories:

  • Care experience
  • Cost
  • Patient outcomes

You may be wondering why these improvements are important and how they are connected to telehealth and telemedicine services. Well, implementing an increased number of telehealth services or visits can:

  • Improve patient outcomes so that fewer doctor's visits are needed in the future
  • Increase patient satisfaction with the care they receive
  • Reduce costs in the long term
  • Reduce emergency room visits by catching symptoms earlier
  • Save time and money

As telehealth services continue to evolve over time, they will become vital to managing and treating digestive issues. If you don't know the difference between Telehealth and Telemedicine then read more here.

Who Can You See About Digestive Issues?

You can see your primary care physician or a specialist, like a gastroenterologist, to discuss your digestive issues. Nowadays, you can schedule a telehealth visit to discuss your digestive issues. Sometimes, it may be more beneficial to do a consultation via a telehealth appointment before going in for an in-person exam. 

There are quite a few people you can see for a telehealth visit to get your questions answered:

  • Clinical psychologists
  • Gastroenterologists
  • Hepatologists
  • Licensed social workers
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Nurses
  • Nutrition professionals
  • Physician assistants
  • Primary care providers
  • Radiologists

Working with a dedicated team of doctors is important to creating the most effective, personalized care plan possible for addressing your digestive issues. One such company that has a team of providers in Connecticut is VirtualWalkinCenter.com, This company has medical providers that can evaluate and treat common digestive issues. If they are not able to come up with a solution, they can refer you to a gastrointestinal specialist.

Common Digestive Issues Discussed In Telehealth

The following chart discusses common digestive issues that are easy to discuss over a telehealth visit:

Commonly Discussed Digestive IssuesShort Description of IssueKey Reasons to Use Telehealth
Chronic pancreatitisCauses acid reflux, abdominal pain, and changing bowel movementsInflammation of the pancreasDiscussion may warrant more testing or screeningsOnce diagnosed, can improve the monitoring and management of any prescribed medicineUsed to address potential causes, which can lead to a diagnosis
ConstipationStraining while trying to pass stool can also be considered a symptomUnable to pass stool or more infrequent bowel movementsDiscuss bowel movements, medical history, and your lifestyle to narrow down a causeSolutions could include over-the-counter medications, a prescription, or at-home changes you can make to your lifestyle or diet
Crohn's diseaseA type of inflammatory bowel diseaseCauses abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutritionPrescription medicines are used to control symptomsAllows for easy engagement and education of patientsEasy to manage prescription dosages or any other adjustments that need to be made to medications
DiarrheaConsult a doctor if diarrhea lasts longer than two daysSimply put, diarrhea is an excessive number of loose and watery bowel movementsAllows the doctor to see how you lookDiscuss solutions without having to leave the houseMay prevent worsening symptomsThe provider can better understand any underlying medical conditionsReviews present medicines, as they may be causing the problemTreating it early will help prevent dehydration
Hepatitis CCan cause liver failure and liver cancerTreatment is availableViral infectionAllows patients from remote and rural areas to get the necessary access to hepatitis C treatmentCan practically manage prescribed medicinesMonitors and addresses side effects which greatly improve patient outcomes as finishing the medication is vital to clearing the infection
IndigestionA burning sensation in the upper abdomenCommonly referred to as dyspepsia by doctorsCan prescribe new medications if current medicines are the culpritOpen discussion with a doctor can identify the cause of your discomfortReviews your medical history to understand if any side effects are causing the problem
Irritable bowel syndromeCauses abdominal pain, cramping, gas, diarrhea, or constipationAllows patients to meet with doctors during flare-upsEvaluation and recommendations can be made based on symptomsPossible solutions could be diet or lifestyle changes, medicinesSome doctors may prescribe teletherapy to reduce symptoms
Liver cirrhosisA type of chronic liver damageCan lead to liver disease or liver failure if not properly treatedFound to effectively reduce the number of hospital admissions for patients with cirrhosis Monitor symptoms and create avenues for early detectionUse of scales and blood pressure monitors may be necessary

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms related to these digestive health issues, telehealth is a great place to start receiving personalized care. 

How Do You Start The Conversation About Digestive Health?

Talking about your bowel movements and other discomforts you have related to your digestive health can be difficult. If you are having trouble, you can start the discussion with the following:

  • Describe your symptoms using specifics – Do not shy away from the appropriate terms for the sake of being polite or shy. Your doctor needs to know exactly how you feel to make the correct diagnosis. 
  • Develop a list of questions – Come prepared for your visit with any questions you want to ask the doctor. Have these ready to go and in one place. This will reduce your worry and lower your anxiety.
  • Discuss your lifestyle – Has something changed recently? If you have noticed a change lately and think you know the cause, mention it. Also, discuss any medications, diets, or supplements you take or practice regularly.
  • Know your medical history – If you had a colonoscopy recently, bring the results. If you have been treated for other conditions or undergone surgery, have this information ready. 

Many studies suggest telehealth is a great choice for managing digestive disease symptoms and improving patient quality of life

What Are The Challenges Of Telehealth?

Even though it is a great option for many people experiencing digestive issues, there are some challenges you may want to consider. However, you must speak openly with your doctor once you have done your research on telehealth. 

The following chart highlights the main benefits and challenges of telehealth:

Being in the comfort of your own home

Conveniently schedule appointments

Easier to develop personalized interventions and treatment

Easily track cyclical problems common with digestive issues

Great for advisement and recommendations

Overall easier access to healthcare

Reduced travel costs (especially if specialists were far away)

Staying safe at home
Being embarrassed to talk about digestive issues with an unfamiliar provider

It does not provide the same hands-on care you would receive at a doctor's office visit

Making sure to stay honest about your feelings and symptoms

Not keeping an open mind because it is so different from an in-person visit

Remaining relaxed might be difficult 

Potential for missing information

Could misunderstand if you don't use the specific language

Reduced verbal and non-verbal cues

Not a replacement for diagnostic tests, screenings, or surgeries

The most important thing to understand is that telehealth can't replace medical treatment, especially if you are experiencing an emergency. But telehealth can:

  • Help you better understand your symptoms
  • Have more frequent check-ins when symptoms flare-up
  • Better adapt your treatment plan based on your changing symptoms

How Do Technology Issues Impact Telehealth Visits?

One of the most challenging parts of telehealth is making sure you have adequate access to technology. If you do not have the right technology, it may be a struggle to receive the care you need. If you are trying to schedule an appointment, make sure you have the following:

  • Access to reliable internet or cell service
  • Access to a telephone, cellphone, tablet, or computer with a webcam and microphone
  • Knowing the preferred browser or application for the platform in use by your providers

If you do not know how to solve a technology problem, you can discuss these concerns with:

  • Close family members
  • Trusted friends
  • Your provider

Even though telehealth may pose some challenges, it is a very promising avenue to take if you are looking to explain your symptoms, find guidance, and stay safe. Telehealth has greatly expanded the types of services available to patients in need. 

What Conditions Are Easy To Discuss Via Telehealth?

Some conditions are easier to discuss via telehealth and are actually much more suited to virtual visits. Many chronic illnesses that cause digestive issues fall into this category. 

There have been a few scientific studies covered in a 2018 review article done on the effectiveness of telehealth for the following diseases:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn's disease

The scientific review found that telehealth services are effective in managing digestive diseases. However, more studies are needed in the gastrointestinal field to increase the evidence supporting this claim. 

When Should You Schedule A Telehealth Visit?

If you need some ideas on what qualifies as a good reason to see a doctor using your office's telehealth services, look no further. If you are experiencing the following signs or symptoms, you can see a doctor via telehealth:

  • Evidence of intestinal bleeding
  • Vomiting blood
  • Black, tar-like, or bloody stools
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Diarrhea or bloody diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Any symptom causing concern or difficulty with living your everyday life

If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911 or go to the emergency room. Telehealth services are not designed to handle emergency health issues

Using telehealth appointments in your treatment and management of digestive issues allows for:

  • Better tracking of disease progress
  • Ease and increased frequency of monitoring symptoms or changes
  • Fewer gaps between appointments

Any type of telehealth appointment is a great way to start getting treatment and deciding if you need to go to the physical office for an in-person appointment. 

Is Telehealth Better Than In-Person Care?

This is a widely debated question among doctors and other health care providers. The fact is that telehealth is a great choice for an ongoing or chronic illness. It is great for consultations on bothersome or painful symptoms that do not require emergency care but cause concern. 

There are actually three different types of telehealth services that your care may fall under, which are described in the chart below:

Type of Telehealth ServiceKey Points
Store-and-Forward TelehealthDermatology, radiology, and pathology use this telehealth practice often. Diagnostic results can then be relayed over the phone or via a video call.Eliminates the need for an in-person examination Essentially covers the transfer of information collected from a patient to a specialist. 
Remote Monitoring CareAllows for frequent monitoringCommonly used in chronic disease treatments, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, and gastrointestinal diseases.A cost-effective treatment plan that may include preventative care lowering costs in the long termIncreases patient satisfactionPatient self-tests or self-monitors conditions and symptoms 
Real-Time Interactive ServicesActually is divided further into four more distinct areas of care: nursing, pharmacy, rehabilitation, and neuropsychologyAllows for a consultation to reduce time in the doctor's office if further care is neededOne of the most recognizable forms of telehealthUses phone, online, or home visits to care for patients

Telehealth can cover a lot of areas of medicine effectively and with improved patient satisfaction. However, telehealth services can't solve every medical issue, and some questions or concerns require a physical exam. 

For digestive issues and diseases, telehealth is an important practice to:

  • Foster patient compliance
  • Offer continuous care
  • Improve patient remote monitoring and management

This is because many patients with digestive issues, disorders, or diseases do not adhere to the guidance provided by their practitioners. This non-adherence results in:

  • Decreased efficiency 
  • Decreased quality of life
  • Increased healthcare costs over time
  • Increased morbidity

Telehealth can help prevent these results due to non-adherence from becoming a reality. Telehealth has been shown to promote the opposite results:

  • Health care works as it should
  • Morbidity outcomes are reduced
  • Patients are more satisfied
  • Patients decrease their medical expenses in the long term

In all, for digestive issues, telehealth services can be very beneficial in conjunction with in-person care. Again, telehealth cannot be a substitute for in-person care. However, it can create an improved provider and patient experience.

Is Telehealth Available in CT for Digestive Issues?

Telehealth appointments are only going to increase in frequency as time goes on. Health care delivery is improved. Costs for the provider are also decreased. This is all great news! And telehealth is available in Connecticut for any digestive issues you may be experiencing. 

There are a few ways to reach out to a provider to begin the process of scheduling your telehealth visit in Connecticut:

  • Call the office
  • Email the office

If you are looking for in-network providers, you can consult with your insurance provider. Many insurance providers have modified their coverage to include telehealth services. This means most of the time, a telehealth service will cost the same or have the same copay as an in-person visit. 

What Does Connecticut's Law Say About Telehealth?

In Connecticut, there are specific laws that the state has passed that influence the care you may receive from a provider in Connecticut.

Some important things to note from legislation passed in Connecticut include the following points:

  • Telehealth services must be covered by certain health insurance plans to the same extent as it would be covered in an in-person visit
  • Telehealth services are prohibited from being excluded for coverage from in-network providers

For the most up-to-date information on Connecticut telehealth laws, visit the Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Libraries website. They have extensive coverage of Connecticut's health care laws and legislation.

Telehealth Can Be Used To Treat Digestive Issues

Digestive issues can be chronic and severely painful. For this reason, it is great to have the option to discuss symptoms, flare-ups, and other concerns promptly. Telehealth provides the perfect avenue to have all those needs met. 

Many symptoms of digestive issues can be remedied with a telehealth consultation. Telehealth also allows for more frequent communication with your doctors if your needs change at any time. 

If you are in Connecticut and having digestive health issues, schedule a visit here.

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