Telemedicine available in Hendry County

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
HENDRY COUNTY — Mary Pringle’s daughter has a telemedicine visit with her provider, for important prescription refills.

HENDRY COUNTY — Who wants to leave the house and sit in a waiting room when there’s a pandemic going on? Well, family physicians, mental health providers, speech therapists and other specialists are working to solve this problem by providing telemedicine and virtual care. Telemedicine is on-demand medical service that is quick and cost-effective, from the comfort of your own home using a mobile device. It’s being used for urgent care treatment for a cold, flu and other minor conditions and illnesses. Some chronic conditions can be treated virtually as well. Through virtual visits, medical professionals can measure your health data, such as heart rate, blood pressure, weight and glucose levels.

“I am so grateful all my kids’ doctors are going televideo appointments,” said Mary Pringle, a LaBelle mother who is working hard to keep her medically fragile children safe and healthy. She has been using telemedicine for pediatricians, to obtain medication refills, and even to speak with a lung specialist.

Upon first impression, many patients or parents of patients might find the process daunting and unfamiliar; however, these services can be as simple as using a phone, smartphone or laptop with a shared link or downloaded app. Most services are available as free or low-cost options. Many clinics even utilizing popular apps that allow for video chats, including Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video and Skype, to provide safer health care from a distance. It’s a timely and useful tool in caring for patients while keeping staff safe as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

“I don’t want to leave the house, or worse, risk contamination while sitting in a waiting room when I just needed someone to talk to,” says Heather Mendoza, a resident in the rural area of Montura, who recently used her therapist’s telemedicine services for the first time. “It actually worked out great. I have been having some anxiety and depression, since the coronavirus has been spreading. I was able to talk about it and learn some coping exercises. I never had to leave my own couch!”

This week, the federal government began lifting restrictions on telemedicine services for seniors who are on Medicare, which changes the way medicine can be delivered. It enables patients to receive medical care while staying inside the comfort bubbles of nursing homes, hotels and their own homes.

“As a nurse, I have seen how these kinds of advances are our best options for flattening the curve and make sure patients get the right care quickly and in the safest way possible,” says Kimberley Johnson, a nurse who lives in Harlem and works in Clewiston. “Telehealth technologies have some limitations when it comes to treating patients during a pandemic, but it is sure has its place as an effective and sustainable solution for preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

With a stay-at-home order in place statewide, more and more people are seeking out virtual care providers. If you’d like to experience a telemedicine visit from the comfort of your living room, check with your local clinic to see if they have telemedicine options for you.

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