Gynecology is so much more than pelvic exams and pap smears. Just ask someone with recurrent yeast infections or a chronic condition like PCOS. And while it used to be a requirement to show up in a doctor’s office for treatment, the pandemic drastically accelerated the adoption of virtual visits in Gynecology. The pandemic led regulatory bodies to expand virtual prescribing abilities, and health insurance plans to expand coverage of virtual services. It is still unknown whether this will continue post-COVID, and millions of women+ are taking advantage of this improvement to access while they can.
One advantage of a virtual Gynecology visit is the ability to fill out your intake “paperwork” from your computer or phone. Depending on the clinic and urgency of the visit, you may be able to do this several days prior to your visit. This can also be helpful for ironing out any insurance or payment questions as you can typically contact the clinic’s staff via email or a patient portal.
Because of strict laws on patient privacy (HIPAA) and the need to document notes from the visit, most Gynecologists use a secure, specialized telehealth platform to conduct video visits. Similar to a Zoom call, you may be asked to join a waiting room prior to your visit.
Once the call begins, you will likely be asked to confirm your identity or potentially show identification. Once this is complete, your doctor will proceed as usual, asking you questions about any symptoms, concerns, or your health in general.
For straightforward concerns, such as a birth control pill prescription or UTI treatment, you may be able to complete your visit via chat. Most traditional doctor's offices do not offer this service, but there are several safe, reputable virtual clinics that do. Most of these clinics require you to complete a brief (10-15 minute) form, which is then reviewed by a licensed clinician remotely. A response from the clinician can take anywhere from a few minutes to 24 hours. If you are prescribed, many of these clinics will also mail your medication directly to your home.
According to a report published by ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), the most successful uses of telemedicine in Gynecology are for:
1. Do I have to show my vulva / vagina on camera?
Nope! That seems difficult anyway. However, if you have a suspicious rash, discharge, bump, etc., many providers have secure inboxes where you can send pictures to help with diagnosis.
2. Are telehealth visits recorded?
Because telehealth visits are subject to similar privacy laws as in-person care, clinicians generally do not record sessions. If a session were to be recorded, the clinician would first need your consent. Similarly, patients should not record sessions without consent. If you are concerned about documenting the visit, ask your clinician to make notes in your chart or take notes yourself.
3. Do I have to turn on my camera during a telehealth visit (for Gynecology)?
Many telehealth visits happen without video or even audio (chat-based visits). Telehealth visits without video are largely a result of relaxed regulations during the COVID pandemic. It is still unknown how these laws will change in the future. For now, you do not necessarily need to turn on your camera. However, providers are free to set their own policy on when video is required.
4. Can I safely talk about having an abortion during a telehealth visit?
Yes. If you have confirmed you are speaking with a reputable, licensed provider, your conversation is protected by patient privacy laws. This is true even in states where abortion is restricted. You cannot be prosecuted for speaking to a licensed clinician about abortion.
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