As so many people can probably relate to, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic brought an acute state of fear, making me nervous to leave my house for even some of the most necessary chores, including going to my doctor. But a chronic disease like psoriasis (or in my case psoriatic arthritis) doesn’t halt for a pandemic. I realized that even in this stressful time, skipping my dermatologist appointments was not the right option for me.
Cue: virtual telemedicine visits. If you can't or don't feel comfortable going to the doctor in person, this is a great way to get the care you need outside of an in-person visit. I personally find these visits to be a convenient solution to my regular doctors appointments where I discuss my symptoms and talk about my treatment goals for a variety of reasons. Now I no longer need to travel to get to my appointment (a great solution for people who live far from their dermatologist and struggle to make appointments regularly), the appointments are able to be done faster and I feel more comfortable being able to do it from my home. I have a feeling virtual visits will continue to be an offering among many clinics and doctors‘ offices.
While I find visiting your dermatologist via telemedicine easy, it does take some adjustment and like all unfamiliar things, can feel intimidating at first. Based on my own experience, I’m going to share some tips on getting the most from your doctor’s appointment – even when it’s virtual! Here is my plan for talking to your doctor:
1. Get informed
The more you know, the more comfortable you will feel. Prior to your appointment, be sure to call the office to determine which platform you are using so you can determine whether you need a smartphone or a computer/tablet to complete your appointment, and how you should join your appointment when the time comes.
2. Take a minute to think
Prior to your meeting with your doctor, think about the following: What goals do you want to achieve and what are the biggest problems for you? What has worked for you and what didn’t work? Did you stick to the management plan? Before your appointment, I‘d recommend writing these down (or fill out this doctor discussion guide).
3. Be open and honest
Always remember that you know your psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis best. During your appointment, be open and honest about the real impact that your psoriasis has on your daily life, both physically and emotionally. Your doctor is an expert in their field – they are there to help you, and this information will help you both to have an open conversation and decide together on the best management plan for you. You are your best advocate, so use your preparation work to ensure you ask all of your questions and schedule a follow-up appointment so you can track progress with your doctor.
4. Reflect on the doctor's visit and plan next steps
The last step is to reflect on the doctor's visit. After my appointments I often ask myself questions such as: Do I have all the information I need? Do I feel good about my treatment plan? Was the doctor able to answer all of my questions? These are important questions that will help you for your next visit.
Above all, my most important advice to you: don't postpone your doctor's appointment. Continued care is a key part of managing a chronic skin condition like psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Telemedicine can be a valuable tool once you learn how to navigate it. And if you’re looking for more tips on what to expect during your telemedicine appointment, you can find more information here.
You deserve to feel confident in your skin, but how do you have a clear conversation about your psoriasis goals with your doctor? Sometimes speaking up can be the hardest part.
Be clear about your goals. The power to speak up, feel confident and demand the best care is within you. Sharing your story could be your next step to feeling free from psoriasis—and possibly inspire others to do the same.