You can now see a medical professional without leaving your couch. Here’s how

Pamela Pilola is a Sentara medical assistant who sets up the visits, walks patients through getting online, processes co-pays, etc. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Sentara)
Pamela Pilola is a Sentara medical assistant who sets up the visits, walks patients through getting online, processes co-pays, etc. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Sentara)

With today’s widespread use of smartphones, tablets, and computers, virtual medical visits are no longer limited to the world of the imagination.

Sentara Medical Group is now conducting telehealth visits in Virginia through its Virtual Care Program.

“There are three ways to make an appointment,” Tammy Maloney, a nurse practitioner, said Thursday. “Through your provider’s office, through CareConnect, or through our App on MyChart.”

Once the appointment is scheduled, Maloney then connects patients virtually and holds the consultation.

As a nurse practitioner, Maloney said she is able to prescribe medication, order tests and enter notes into a patient’s electronic medical record.

The beauty of the virtual visit? No wait times, no lines, no extraneous emergency room fees, just a patient’s regular co-pay, Maloney said.

Maloney described it as a consult without the cold touch of a stethoscope to a patient’s chest, but with the comfort of a medical professional’s guidance.

SMG patient, Sheree Mobley of Virginia Beach, shared her recent experience as a virtual care patient.

“It was my first time,” Mobley said. “I wasn’t feeling well and my doctor wasn’t in on Monday, so they recommended doing a virtual visit. I was feeling really bad and thinking how am I going to get to the doctor’s office, and then how am I going to drive back home?”

At first Mobley was hesitant.

“It’s the fear of the unknown,” Mobley said. “Growing up you go to the doctor’s office, they have the stethoscope, and they’re looking in your ear. (The virtual visit) was something else, but the actual experience was amazing. The fact that you’re able to look at someone, from your living room, it’s really nice. Tammy was amazing, she picked up on things that you don’t think people can pick up on over the phone and virtually. It was really good.”

The ideal patient for a virtual visit?

“Uncomplicated situations: a rash, an insect bite, cough, cold, flu symptoms, sore throat, urinary tract infections, non-aggravated conditions,” Maloney said. “We have a lot of professionals, school teachers and employees that make appointments for their lunch breaks, log-on, complete their visit in five minutes, and when they leave work, their prescription is ready to pick-up on the way home.”

Tyler Okoren, director of Virtual Care for Sentara said, “the value of having a virtual visit with (Sentara) is (Tammy) can see the patient’s medical record: the patient’s past and present history, and she can talk to a patient’s primary care provider and collaborate with specialists, as needed. She can really give a convenient holistic care approach, which is a big advantage.”

Sentara is currently conducting virtual visits for adults during normal business hours: 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with the hope of extending those hours in the future to include weekends.

For additional information, click here. Here’s a link to Sentara Virtual Care site.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.