How My First Telehealth Appointment With a New Psychiatrist Went
Recently, I had my first teleconference with my psychiatrist. I have had a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder for several years now, and I have received excellent care from my doctors at the large Veterans Association (VA) hospital in my city. However, I recently moved to a new state which required a change to all new doctors at a new VA clinic. The new clinic is close to my apartment, but it is not a large hospital with all of the doctors on site. On my first visit to the clinic, I learned my next appointment with my psychiatrist would take place by teleconference, and he was in a large city located about two hours away.
When the day arrived for my appointment, I reported to the clinic as I had always done in the past. My bloodwork had been completed, and I was prepared for the conference with my psychiatrist. I thought I would be talking to him over the telephone. My mom, who is my trust partner, was with me, and we were led into a small room with a large TV monitor on a desk with a keyboard. A technician came in and set up all the technology and told me to wait until the doctor came on the screen. I still was not sure what to expect, but I was glad I had my trust partner with me.
Finally, a face showed up on the screen, and it was clear that face saw me. My new doctor did not really remark that he was in a box or that we were not face-to-face. I could tell that for him, this type of conference was not unusual. He did not hesitate, but we went right into our business. He introduced himself to me, and then Mom and I introduced ourselves to him.
During our initial conversation, or the “getting to know you” stage, my new doctor told me about himself. He used to do pharmaceutical research, but he missed seeing patients, so he left that job. We had an insightful conversation on his theories about schizophrenia, some of his theories about causes and symptoms and how he came to work for the VA. I told him how I wrote first-person accounts about living day-to-day with schizophrenia and my work advocating for those with mental illness. He appeared to be extremely interested in what I do and made a note to look up some of my writing. It was reassuring when Mom gave me a thumbs up under the table — she felt the conversation was going well.
I could have talked a long time with him. He went through all the normal questions on his paperwork. I felt so comfortable with him that I told him about the hazing I had experienced in the military and about my decisions to try to live a healthier lifestyle. He told me I would be receiving my prescriptions in the mail, and we set up our next teleconference for next month.
I came away from my first teleconference feeling like I had just met face-to-face with a brilliant, but relatable psychiatrist. He was very personable, had a good bedside manner and seemed to really care about me as an individual. He even gave me a phone number where I could reach him in case I had any questions. By the time the conference was over, I had almost forgotten I was looking at a screen. I am already looking forward to meeting with my psychiatrist again next month. He may be several miles away, but I believe I can trust him to give me professional care, delivered in a personable manner.
Getty image by Lacheev