What to Know About Telehealth for Nasal Polyps

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Telehealth is an area of medicine that uses virtual technology so you can visit with a healthcare professional remotely. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, telehealth has become widely available and is now commonly used to manage conditions such as nasal polyps.

Doctor and patient on telehealth visit

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Nasal polyps are a type of noncancerous, teardrop-shaped growth that occurs in the nasal and sinus passages. While the pathology of nasal polyps is not entirely understood, they are associated with chronic inflammatory conditions such as asthma, allergies, or rhinosinusitis.

Nasal polyps cause symptoms such as congestion, headaches, postnasal drip, and sinus pressure, sometimes people with nasal polyps also get frequent bloody noses or may experience loss of taste or smell.

This article will discuss when it is appropriate to use telehealth for care for nasal polyps, how to prepare for a visit, and what happens during the visit.

It Is Safe to See a Healthcare Professional in Person When Necessary

Although telehealth has been increasingly used during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may not be right for every type of medical appointment. Be assured that precautions are in place to allow you to see your healthcare professional in person safely. Fear of COVID-19 should not stop needed visits to a doctor or hospital.

When to Use Telehealth for Nasal Polyps

While telehealth can be safely and meaningfully used to manage nasal polyps, it is not appropriate in every situation. For example, in-person tests such as a computed tomography (CT) scan will require you to visit a hospital or clinic. Here are some examples of situations where it is appropriate to use telehealth:

  • You need to refill your prescriptions.
  • It is time for your follow-up visit, and you are unlikely to require in-person tests such as medical imaging.
  • You have a question about a mild side effect of your medication.
  • You are experiencing new but nonurgent symptoms.

The following situations are examples of times when you need to see a healthcare professional in person rather than virtually:

  • You are experiencing symptoms that require emergency treatment (such as extreme difficulty breathing leading you to feel light-headed or bleeding that you can't stop after about 20 minutes).
  • You believe you will require a physical examination or laboratory tests, such as blood work or medical imaging.

Benefits and Challenges

The benefits of using telehealth to manage your nasal polyps include convenience, decreasing your risk of exposure to contagious illnesses, reduced travel time and expense, and, in some cases, lower overall cost of your healthcare visit.

Challenges that come with using telehealth are often related to the technology used or the user's capabilities, for example, a poor Internet connection, lack of access to a digital device or Wi-Fi, or visual or auditory problems.

When surveyed, physicians often report the biggest challenge they face when it comes to telehealth versus an in-person visit is their inability to physically examine their patient.

Occasionally, telehealth visits require in-person follow-ups if problems are identified during the visit that necessitate hands-on care or laboratory testing. In this case you may be charged for both the telehealth and in-person services.

You can minimize the risk of having to schedule and pay for two visits by knowing when it is appropriate to use telehealth and when you should schedule an in-person visit with a healthcare professional.

How to Prepare for a Telehealth Visit for Your Nasal Polyps

To prepare for your telehealth appointment:

  • The first step is making the appointment. A specialist called an otolaryngologist is most qualified to address nasal polyps. If you do not already have a healthcare professional who uses telehealth, you may want to check with your insurance company, friends, and family members for recommendations.
  • Clarify what your insurance coverage is regarding telehealth.
  • When calling to set up the appointment, be prepared to answer some questions to help determine if a virtual telehealth visit is appropriate for you. Have a piece of paper and a pencil handy to write down important information.
  • Prior to your appointment, you will need to make sure your technological devices are in working order and ready to go. This may require you to download an app, ensure you have an adequate Internet connection, and check that your battery is properly charged or there is an outlet nearby to plug into.
  • If possible, select a quiet area with good lighting where you can take the telehealth visit. It is a good idea to log on in advance of your appointment time to ensure everything is working properly.
  • Make a list of topics and questions you want to discuss with your provider. This helps to facilitate a meaningful conversation and to ensure important issues are not forgotten or overlooked. For example, "I am feeling tired. Is this a side effect of my nasal polyp medication?"
  • You may also be asked for the name and address of your preferred pharmacy so have this information on hand.

Will My Insurance Cover Telehealth?

Medicare and Medicaid, as well as many private insurance companies, have expanded their coverage for telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some, including Aetna and Cigna, are even temporarily waiving co-pays for virtual visits.

Many states have changed their laws around telemedicine to make it more affordable and easier to access during this time. The only way to know your exact coverage is to contact your insurer and clarify your benefits prior to your telehealth appointment.

What Happens During the Visit?

Many healthcare professionals will have a medical assistant or other staff member initiate the telehealth visit. This is an opportunity to ensure that all necessary technology is functioning properly before your provider joins the call.

Also, as with an in-person visit, this staff member will be asking you questions to update your medical record. You can expect to be asked about your current symptoms, allergies, medical history, and the medications you are taking.

When you talk to your healthcare professional, you may be asked many of these same questions, but it is important for your provider to have a clear understanding of your current health status.

You may be asked how long your current symptoms have lasted, if you have specific symptoms such as facial pain or a loss of the senses of taste or smell, as well as questions about remedies you've tried to control your symptoms. Make sure you review the questions and concerns you wrote down in advance of your appointment before you end your visit.

If your telehealth visit reveals you need medical testing, your provider will order tests to be performed at a hospital or clinic. Prescriptions usually can be called in to your pharmacy of choice.

Make sure you clarify whether you will need a follow-up appointment and when, and whether that should be an in-person or a telehealth visit.

Summary

Telehealth visits can be used for ongoing care of nasal polyps. In-person visits may be needed for physical exams, imaging, and emergency care for serious breathing or bleeding problems.

A Word From Verywell

Using telehealth to manage your nasal polyps may seem intimidating if you have never done it before, but many patients find virtual healthcare appointments to be convenient and easy.

Nasal polyps are a common condition requiring proper management to prevent serious and debilitating symptoms. Telehealth assures you do not need to let your health concerns go unaddressed during a pandemic or anytime when getting out to an appointment is challenging.

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Article Sources
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