Michigan Orthopaedic Surgeons offer telehealth appointments amid coronavirus outbreak

Doctors say it’s about keeping patients out of the ER

DETROIT – In an effort to protect their patients, many doctors are turning to telemedicine and “seeing” their patients through video chats instead of in person.

While that might work for some health problems, what happens if you break a bone?

The doctors at Michigan Orthopaedic Surgeons have found a unique way to help even with orthopedic injuries.

"At a time like this, I think we just have to make due with what we have," said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Rachel Rohde. "We're doing tele-health visits during the day and also after hours and on the weekends to try to do what we can do with tele-health."

Even in a pandemic, people still get hurt.

"You fall, you twist your knee, what's going on with it? Again, it's a little bit more difficult to do that, but you can get a sense kind of from the visit or talking to the patient how bad things are," said orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Bicos.

Obviously, there are injuries you can’t treat over telehealth.

"Things we can't do like x-rays, casting or even surgery, we can help coordinate so that patients don't have to go to the emergency room or other high flow areas and try to keep them safe," said Bicos.

They do have a very small staff available in the office if patients require an x-ray or cast.

The goal is to keep patients out of the emergency room whenever possible -- to reduce the risk of patients being exposed to the coronavirus and to free up medical personnel to care for other patients.

"To relieve the stress of going to the emergency room for non-urgent things that we can handle or at least to give the patient a plan, I think this is the way to go," said Bicos.

It’s not just for urgent situations, but also for issues that patients would normally have scheduled an in-office visit.

“I’m a hand surgeon,” explained Rohde. “There are people who have carpal tunnel syndrome, and I could tell by the way they’re describing it, and the way that we’re speaking that that might be what’s going on, and I could give them guidance as to what they could do at home, until we could arrange for better treatment.”

This is for new patients and the practice’s existing ones. They treat children and adults. Their practice has created a video posted on their website to help patients sign up.

The doctors say insurance companies are covering the telehealth visits, and typically co-pays are being waived, but you should check with your specific insurance company regarding your coverage.

“This is new, and it’s something that we need to get out to patients, telling them that this is available, we’re open, we’re here to at least triage their complaints, and to know that they’re being listened to,” said Bicos.

Click here to learn more about Michigan Orthopaedic Surgeons

MORE: Michigan’s number of confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases tops 1,300

How COVID-19 Spreads

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
  • Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily the virus spreads

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

Prevention & Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

MORE: Beaumont Health launches coronavirus hotline for patients with symptoms

People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Question about coronavirus? Ask Dr. McGeorge here.

Read more about coronavirus here.

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