Amid these challenging times, Virginia Heart wants to make sure our patients know we are still available to address their cardiac care needs. All of our routine office visits have transitioned to telemedicine visits for the time being. We are seeing a small number of patients who need to be seen in our offices based upon their provider’s recommendation.
Patients are encouraged to keep their regularly scheduled appointments through either Zoom or Doximity. Virginia Heart has taken the necessary steps to make sure our Zoom platform is HIPAA compliant. Telemedicine appointments done by Zoom are not recorded, and all patients are kept in a virtual waiting room until their provider admits them. Our preferred platform is Doximity for those patients with smart phones due to ease of use.
Many patients have asked what they should expect from a “virtual visit.” These visits are very similar to in-person visits, you can see your provider virtually and they can see you. If you have any testing equipment at home, such as a smart watch or blood pressure cuff, we will ask you to record and share that data with us, such as your current weight, heart rate and blood pressure reading(s). We will also ask you to have your list of medications ready for review.
“Patients who do not have access to testing equipment at home may be asked to come in to the office to be seen,” said Dr. Pinell-Salles. “But we encourage everyone to keep an open mind regarding telehealth visits. As a physician, I have found this new medium has helped me keep close track of sick patients in this difficult time. I have seen some patients weekly, keeping them out of the ER and out of the hospital. It has also made me more readily available- able to spontaneously schedule patients for visits when they call in with symptoms. Seeing patients by video we can assess how sick they may be and adjust their blood pressure or heart failure medications and diuretics. We’ve been able to mail out heart monitors to evaluate people’s dizziness or palpitations. I have often felt very close to my patients and there is something very moving about seeing a patient at home and in their element.”
Dr. Shor says it is important that cardiology patients continue to follow their cardiac care regimens, including regular visits with their physicians. “Telemedicine is an effective way for us to perform important assessments and are much preferred to having our patients postpone their appointments,” he said. “If we determine that we need to see the patient in person, we will make arrangements to do so.”
The Virginia Heart Sleep Center is not currently conducting any in-house sleep studies, however is fully equipped with telehealth visits, remote home sleep testing and remote CPAP set up with virtual technician support to serve our patients. “Telemedicine has enabled us to continue to care for our patients while also respecting health and safety concerns,” said Dr. Amit V. Patel, Medical Director of the Virginia Heart Center for Sleep Medicine. “Just as importantly, during this time of fear, uncertainty and isolation, these televisits also provide the comfort, solace and personal contact that is so needed right now in our lives.”
Dr. Patel notes that the Sleep Center’s de-contamination and sterilization processes for home sleep testing units meets recently updated CDC guidelines. Those with additional questions about home sleep tests can contact the Virginia Heart Sleep Team directly at (703) 621-4503 option 2 then option 2 again.
Virginia Heart is encouraging all of our patients to follow the CDC recommendations for physical distancing, wearing a mask whenever you are in public, and all behaviors that support good heart health. In addition to keeping up with regular exercise and following a heart healthy diet, Eve Mogadam, Medical Director of the Virginia Heart Health and Wellness Center, also urges patients to pursue healthy diversions that support their emotional and mental health. “We encourage everyone to stay well informed, but we also recommend that people focus their energies on activities and interactions that lift their spirits and not allow themselves to become overwhelmed by fear and worry,” she said.
“We recognize the considerable worry and stress all Americans are feeling as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Bazaz added. “Although our lives have been disrupted, we want to remind all of our patients and their loved ones that the Virginia Heart team is still here for you now, and always.”
Virginia Heart staff currently work directly with the patient’s insurance company to submit a claim for the Telemedicine visits.
Any patient who experiences a medical emergency should call 911 immediately. “Do not ignore possible cardiovascular symptoms or try to self-manage them,” Dr. Levy, Chief Medical Officer urged. “Ambulance companies and emergency rooms are fully sanitized and are the best place for anyone needing urgent medical care. Do not risk your long-term health by waiting to call for help.”
For those patients who are hospitalized or who are transported to a hospital for emergency care, Virginia Heart physicians are still making their regular rounds as well as seeing patients in the emergency room and performing emergency testing and procedures.