What to Know About Telehealth for Osteoporosis

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If you have osteoporosis, telehealth provides a way to stay on top of your treatment while minimizing trips outside of your home. Osteoporosis is a chronic, age-related disease associated with progressive bone thinning and increased risk of bone fractures.

For the estimated 54 million Americans living with osteoporosis, it is important to regularly visit their healthcare providers and take any medications as prescribed to manage the disease and minimize symptoms.

Telehealth visit for osteoporosis

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant effects on healthcare delivery, including for patients with osteoporosis. The rising popularity of telehealth during the COVID-19 outbreak has allowed patients and healthcare providers to continue to keep appointments so patients can be heard and healthcare providers can provide care.

Telehealth includes a broad range of delivery systems that includes live video chats, mobile health apps, online healthcare provider visits, and secure messaging via websites, text, and email.

COVID-19 Safety Precautions

Many healthcare providers’ offices are taking precautions to safely see patients in person, but if you’re more comfortable staying home, telehealth is now a viable option for osteoporosis patients.

When to Use Telehealth for Osteoporosis 

Research shows that telehealth is beneficial for many individuals living with osteoporosis. Appointments can take place via videoconference or telephone, helping patients gain access to care.

It isn’t only doctors who provide appointments through telehealth. In some cases, you may meet with a nurse practitioner or another type of healthcare professional who can answer your questions and provide treatment advice on the phone or via videoconference. 

Millions of Americans live in rural areas and may not have access to local medical professionals trained to care for osteoporosis patients. In these cases, patients typically travel long distances to access care. Telehealth appointments can help those living in rural areas access important medical care without traveling long distances. 

Telehealth isn’t just for individuals living in rural areas, though. Telehealth appointments can help many individuals living with osteoporosis access care from the comfort of home. You may prefer a telehealth visit if: 

  • You were due for a follow-up visit concerning your bone health.
  • You have limited mobility that makes it difficult to travel.
  • You are immunocompromised and need to stay home.
  • You have questions for your healthcare provider that wouldn’t necessarily warrant an in-person visit.
  • Your medications need to be refilled by your prescribing healthcare provider.

You May Need to Be Seen in Person If…

In-person care is often needed for these situations:

  • You have broken a bone or have fallen and require an in-person examination.
  • You need blood drawn for testing.
  • You require medication via IV or injectibles from a medical professional.
  • You need a bone scan.

Benefits and Challenges

Telehealth appointments have increased significantly in recent years, particularly due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The CDC reported a 154% increase in telehealth visits during the last week of March 2020, in part due to the pandemic.

Research shows that telehealth visits can be beneficial for osteoporosis patients. Individuals with osteoporosis who took part in telehealth appointments expressed happiness with the convenience of virtual visits, reduced travel time and costs, and a sense of confidence in connecting with an osteoporosis specialist virtually. 

Telehealth offers a convenient way to see your healthcare provider without leaving your home, but it does have a few challenges:

  • Some issues require an in-person visit: It isn’t possible to do every type of medical visit remotely. You still have to go into the office for things like imaging tests, physical examinations, and blood work, as well as for diagnoses that require a more hands-on approach.
  • Privacy concerns: Though all telehealth visits will remain confidential under HIPAA laws, the security of personal health data transmitted electronically is a privacy concern.
  • Insurance coverage: While insurance companies are increasingly covering the cost of telehealth visits during the COVID-19 pandemic, some services may not be fully covered, leading to out-of-pocket costs.
  • Technology issues: Poor internet connection and faulty devices can be a barrier to accessing virtual appointments. 
  • Interpersonal connections: Some people prefer the personal connection and interactions that come with face-to-face visits and may dislike the distance between practitioner and patient during telehealth appointments. 

How to Prepare for a Telehealth Visit for Osteoporosis

The transition to telehealth appointments is an adjustment for patients who are used to visiting their healthcare provider(s) in person. It’s important to prepare for your appointment beforehand to make the most out of your time with your provider. 

Prepare Your Technology

Ask ahead of time if your appointment will be via video, or whether it will be a phone call. You’ll want to make sure you have the technology required prior to your appointment.

If your appointment will be a video call, for example, ensure you have a working camera on your computer or phone and that your device is fully charged. In some cases, you may be required to download a software program or app used by the medical provider in order to access your appointment.

Regardless of the type of telehealth appointment you have, all information you share during your telehealth appointment falls under HIPAA laws and will be kept confidential. 

Check With Your Insurance 

Call your insurance company ahead of time to see if telehealth appointments are covered. Some states have required insurers to cover telehealth visits during the COVID-19 pandemic, but not all insurance companies will cover telehealth appointments unless they are directly related to COVID-19 symptoms.

In some cases, you may be expected to pay a copay as you would with in-person visits. 

Will Insurance Cover Telehealth for Osteoporosis?

Insurance coverage for telehealth appointments varies, depending on your state and insurance provider. If you are on Medicare or Medicaid, most telehealth services require you to pay the same amount that you would if you received the services in person.

Make a List of Questions

Before your appointment, make a list of the questions you have for your healthcare provider. It can be easy to forget or get sidetracked during a call, so having these on hand can ensure all of your questions and concerns are addressed.

Have a notepad handy to record any information the medical provider shares with you during your appointment. Many providers offer patients the opportunity to email or text follow-up questions, so ask your provider during your visit if this is an option.

Find a Quiet Location

Ensure you have a quiet location to sit in for your virtual appointment to avoid interruptions. Turn off the TV or any background music so your call is not interrupted by background noise.

If you cannot find a private location to attend your telehealth appointment, you may want to use headphones to reduce outside noise and keep your call or videoconference private. Ensure the lighting in the location you’ll be sitting is good so your provider can see you clearly. 

What Happens During the Visit

The structure of telehealth visits can vary, depending on the reason for your appointment. Though telehealth visits won’t look exactly as they would in person, there are many topics you can cover during your appointment, including: 

  • Recent falls
  • Current broken bone healing progress and/or previous fractures that have healed
  • Medication side effects, refills, new prescriptions, or changes to medications you take for other conditions
  • Test results

If your appointment is via video teleconference, your healthcare provider may look at your skin and teeth. You may also do a balance test while your healthcare provider watches. 

When applicable, you may schedule future telehealth visits with your medical provider. Other times, you may be required to be seen in person.

A Word From Verywell

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the adoption of telehealth and virtual visits, the accessibility and convenience of these appointments may make it a preferred option for routine appointments, even after the pandemic has passed.

Though you may feel unsure of what to expect during a telehealth visit, try to go into it the same way you would an in-person visit with your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will do their best to answer your questions and ensure your bone health and overall well-being are monitored.

Research shows that telehealth is an efficient and effective tool for improving healthcare access and outcomes. If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact your healthcare provider before your appointment.

Alternatively, online support groups do exist for those living with osteoporosis. You may want to connect with others who have participated in telehealth appointments and ask them to share their experiences.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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