Telemedicine for Urology: What is Involved?
Are you having a problem in the bedroom or bathroom and not sure what to do next? Are you scared the pain that you’re having may be a UTI, kidney stone or something worse like cancer? Fear not. Help is available today!
Urologists are experts of the urinary tract and male genitalia. Urologists treat a number of very common medical conditions including:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Premature ejaculation
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Kidney stones
- Troubles urinating due to an enlarged prostate (BPH)
- Overactive bladder
- Testicular pain
- Cancers of the urinary tract (kidney, bladder and prostate)
The problem is finding a urologist who has availability to see you anytime this century. Urologists are in short supply. Even if you find one online, think of all the pain it will take to actually see them for a 5 minute visit (did I mention urologists overbook their schedule to meet the demand?). You will have to:
- Call their office and hope someone answers the phone (otherwise hope for a callback).
- Spend 10 minutes on the phone providing your personal information.
- Hope they are in-network with your insurance.
- Wait 6 weeks to 6 months for an appointment.
- Take time off work or arrange care for family members.
- Drive, park and walk to the medical office.
- Fill out 20 minutes of paperwork.
- Sit in the waiting room for up to an hour (or more).
- Visit with a distracted doctor who stares at his/her computer screen more than you.
- Drive home with more questions than answers.
Why not instead consider a visit with a telemedicine urologist? Instead of a 6 week waiting period, how about a telemedicine urology visit this week? Wouldn’t it be nice to skip all of these steps and visit with an expert from the comfort of your home? VirtuCare can make this a reality.
In fact if you’re ready to schedule, Not sure if a telemedicine urology visit is right for you? No problem. Allow us to guide you through some common questions and concerns about visiting with a telemedicine urologist, so you can confidently schedule an appointment today.
How much does a visit with a telemedicine urologist cost?
The cost of a visit is $89 with VirtuCare. When you consider that the average out-of-pocket cost for a new patient consultation with a urologist in the U.S. is $286 - $383 according to MDSave, then $89 is a bargain.
I’m sure you’re asking yourself but what about my insurance? Do you take insurance? The short answer is “no”. We are able to offer such a competitive price for telemedicine urology services BECAUSE we don’t take insurance.
The administrative costs for medical offices which bill insurance companies is staggering. Instead we’ve decided to cut out the middleman, and pass along the cost savings to you. Also, don’t forget that insurance deductibles are rising. So even if you have insurance, there’s a good chance that you’d be responsible for paying the $300 new patient fee if you saw an in-person urologist.
What medical conditions can a telemedicine urologist treat?
Many urological conditions don’t require a physical exam or in-person testing for an initial evaluation. In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, almost ⅔ of urology visits were successfully completed via telemedicine without the need for a follow up in-person evaluation. Just because a urologist can’t virtually put their hands on you for an exam, doesn’t mean that they can’t help you with the following conditions:
- Urinary troubles (going potty too much or too little)
- Sexual problems
- Testicular, UTI or kidney stone pain
- 2nd opinions on any urological condition (e.g. prostate cancer)
What happens if I need to see an in-person urologist?
Unlike other telemedicine services, we don’t leave you hanging. At VirtuCare we have a robust network of colleagues across the country. We can provide a personal recommendation or at the very least, hopefully expedite an in-person urology visit. A telemedicine urology visit doesn’t end when we end our video call. We do our best to follow through to ensure you get the full care you deserve.
How does a telemedicine urology visit work?
There is a simplicity in a visit with a telemedicine urologist. Unlike an in-person visit, you are more in control of the experience. Here are the steps you can expect with a telemedicine urology consultation:
1. Schedule the appointment
Most telemedicine platforms allow YOU to schedule the visit online. Say goodbye to endless games of phone tag with a medical office. Since telemedicine visits are efficient for the doctor, same day or same week appointments are more of the norm versus waiting 6 months.
If the telemedicine urologist is planning on billing your insurance, then have your member ID and insurance card handy. On the other hand, a cash telemedicine visit will usually require a credit card to pay for the visit ahead of time.
2. Complete digital intake forms
The amount of “paperwork” you’ll complete online will once again vary depending upon whether the telemedicine urologist is billing your insurance company. Most medical documentation serves lawyers and insurance companies, not physicians.
Now of course it’s important to provide some medical history. Remember however that a urologist is a specialist of the urinary tract and male genitalia. We don’t need to know about your knee pain or ingrown toenail unless they somehow relate to your urological issue.
3. Find a comfortable, private space with adequate internet signal
Here comes the technical part of a telemedicine visit. In some ways, a telemedicine visit is more private than an in-person visit because you have complete control over who’s in your environment. Just make certain that you have good internet access. The last thing you want is a choppy audio/visual experience because your WIFI stinks.
Some patients like to use headphones to ensure some privacy. Your lighting is important as well. You don’t want bright lights behind you nor do you want to be in a dark room that makes it hard for the telemedicine urologist to perform a visual exam if necessary. Good lighting in front of the camera works best.
In terms of devices, most telemedicine platforms allow visits via a smartphone. A tablet, laptop or desktop work as well. Just be certain that the device has a functioning camera. An audio call alone is typically not allowed in order to have a legal telemedicine consultation. We need to recreate an in-person evaluation as best as we can.
4. Login to the platform
Be sure to login at least 5 minutes before the visit to make sure you’re ready when the telemedicine urologist is available. Yes, urologists still run late with telemedicine visits. However we are typically more on time than in person evaluations.
5. Virtual visit with the telemedicine urologist
Now it’s go time! You get to actually visit with a telemedicine urologist from the comfort of your home. Make certain to be clear with your main medical concern. Stay on topic to make the most of your time. Don’t be afraid to ask good questions. If your telemedicine urologist is experienced, competent and has a great “webside” manner, then you should expect a virtual visit to be a great experience.
If your telemedicine urologist prescribed you a medication, then call the pharmacy to make sure they received it and go pick it up. Sometimes we will recommend lab or imaging tests that are best coordinated with your local primary care doctor. Most telemedicine platforms will allow you to log back in and upload these test results. If necessary, you may need a 2nd telemedicine urology visit to review any completed tests or move on to the next treatment if your symptoms are not yet relieved.
Is a telemedicine urology visit safe?
100% yes. Telemedicine platforms have a level of cybersecurity that must comply with HIPAA privacy laws. For better or for worse, most of our personal information is floating around the internet already. The likelihood of a hacker intercepting our virtual urology visit discussing your bladder is really, really low.
In fact there is a much higher likelihood of a breach of personal health information with in-person medicine. Packed waiting rooms, thin walls, and visible computer screens provide plenty of opportunity for other people to hear about your medical condition. With telemedicine YOU control who hears your visit.
I’m ready for a telemedicine urology visit! What’s the next step?
Great! At the moment you have two main options. First, you can search for a local urology group who is offering telemedicine services. Urologists have embraced telemedicine to a varying degree. Some, like our team at VirtuCare, are all in, and others not so much. The good news is that it’s easy to figure this out. A tech savvy urology practice will promote telemedicine on their website and offer this feature. Otherwise you may be stuck picking up the phone to find out if a urology telemedicine visit is a possibility.
Your second option is to research a completely virtual urology practice. Some of the big telemedicine services like Teladoc state they offer specialty care. However, you can’t see what they treat or who their doctors are without forming an account. This is why we formed VirtuCare.
VirtuCare was formed by a board-certified urologist Dr. Joseph Pazona (me) to provide patients with access to telemedicine urologists. A visit costs $89, and we can visit with you this week. If you need a follow up evaluation with an in-person urologist, then we can help you find the best urologist to take over your care. Simply use the calendar below to schedule your appointment.
Let’s make healthcare easier, because UTIs and kidney stones are painful enough.
(If you are a urologist who is interested in a telemedicine urology job then click here to learn more!)