Dr. Canales Pointing to Before and After Photos on His LaptopThe Basics of a Virtual Consultation

An ideal online consultation for a medspa or a plastic surgery practice should be private, save time for both the patient and the physician, and it should allow the process to be conducted anywhere where there is a good WiFi connection.

They say “necessity is the mother of invention,” but they also say “there is nothing new under the sun.”  So when the recent Coronavirus pandemic hit, many employees began working remotely from home in order to maintain social distancing. While we have had the ability to access meetings remotely for some time, the idea of telemedicine has suddenly taken hold.  This is particularly true of telemedicine for plastic surgeons.   A plastic surgery virtual consultation is nothing new. We have had the option on our website for many years, but it was a static consultation.  First, the patient would submit a medical history and  set of photographs.  Then the doctors would evaluate the photos and communicate a set of recommendations for surgery based on that initial online contact. The communication was usually in the form of a phone call, without the important visual component that is needed for a true, two-way consultation.  During a live consultation, you can point to areas of concern and have the physician give you immediate feedback.  For example, you can point to wrinkles on your face and ask whether Botox or dermal fillers are most appropriate.  You could show your doctor the area of your abdomen that bothers you and, for the most part, the doctor would be able to tell you whether a tummy tuck might be the best solution. If the examination involves private parts, then you could submit photos ahead of time, so you don’t have to disrobe. Alternatively, the consultation can be a three-way consultation to include a female chaperone, such as the practice’s patient coordinator.

There are now many new online platforms that allow live video communication with patients.  Zoom, Doxy.me, Klara, Symplast, and FaceTime  are just a few of the telemedicine applications being used today.  The ideal is to communicate with a patient in a HIPAA compliant way that requires minimal effort from both patient and doctor.

What To Expect Of An Online Consultation

Communicating with a physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant through telemedicine should allow a patient to express their interests and concerns, and it should allow the medical provider to evaluate, diagnose, and even recommend treatments from afar.  Of course, there is nothing that can substitute the physical exam in person, but for many cosmetic surgery concerns the virtual consultation can answer the patient’s needs and allow both patient and medical provider to decide whether it is appropriate to pursue the plan in person.  This applies to questions as basic as home skincare regimens and as complex as whether the patient is a candidate for liposuction or a better candidate for a tummy tuck.

How To Prepare For A Virtual Consultation

Do your research online just as you would for an in-person consultation. Make sure your doctor is certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery. If your consultation is for a non-plastic surgery medical issue, make sure that your doctor is certified by the appropriate medical board.  Visit the doctor’s website, look at before and after photos, reviews, and testimonials. It is important to get a couple of opinions, so select two or three practices that meet your criteria.  Because you are doing this from a distance, you can also access a practice that is not in your immediate locale.  Why would one want to do that?  If you find a practice whose before and after photos, reviews or testimonials make it stand out from others, it may be worthwhile to do a virtual, no obligation consultation.  Many of our patients come from out of the area, including some who travel from a different state to see us.

Once you have decided on a couple of plastic surgeons, then you are ready to contact the office.  Most offices allow you to contact them by phone or directly from their websites.  Your request will be handled by the  practice’s patient concierge, who will obtain basic information regarding your specific plastic surgery interests, ask you some questions about your health, collect insurance information if appropriate,  and then set up the online visit.

You will receive a text or an email from the practice letting you know the date and time of the virtual consultation as well as tips on how to maximize your time with the plastic surgeon, nurse practitioner or physician assistant. It is important to be as prepared as possible for a virtual consultation, as there are technical requirements that one needs to check off for the consultation to be successful.

Right BEFORE Your Visit:

  • Choose a private, well-lit room with minimal distractions
  • Make sure your device (cell phone or computer) is connected to a strong WiFi network
  • Test the device’s camera and microphone
  • Ensure that you have downloaded the latest version of your browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox)
  • Have the office’s phone number available in case you encounter a problem with the connection
  • Have all your questions written down
  • Have pen and paper so you can write down important points delivered to you

What To Do After Your Virtual Consult

We retain information for only a short time after a consultation, so it is a good idea to write down the salient points of the consult as soon as it is  finished.  If more questions come to mind after you have had a chance to reflect on the conversation, write them down so you can follow up with the office staff.  The doctor’s office will likely send you an email or text thanking you for the visit and they will attach additional information such as a financial quote for our procedure or additional videos that you can watch.  They will also offer you the opportunity to visit the practice in-person or even let you schedule your procedure of choice.  Make sure that you allow enough time for recuperation after surgery and that you have some additional help available. If you have young children, it is especially helpful to have an extra pair of hands during the initial recovery.  Don’t forget to ask about timelines for returning to work and returning to your exercise routines.  Ask about the length of the surgery, the type of anesthesia, and how long sutures or staples will be in place.  In short, the better informed you are, the easier it will be for you to make a decision.

A virtual consult can be nearly as complete as an in-person consult.  However, as a patient, you may feel best seeing the doctor in person, and there are additional benefits to having the face to face consultation.  That on-site visit will eventually be necessary for all patients. But the online consultation is a good first step.  It is convenient, saves you the travel time to the doctor’s office, and it ensures that your waiting time is minimal. So whenever you are ready to proceed with an online visit, just let us know!

Fill out our online virtual consultation form to get started today!