For medical marijuana users, the COVID-19 shutdowns raise urgent questions about how they access their medication and continue to contact their providers. Medical centers are cancelling non-emergency appointments and elective procedures. Many specialists are being called on to offer urgent care. How will this affect medical cannabis product supplies? And how can you make sure your medical marijuana treatment is isn’t interrupted? Here are some suggestions.
One bright spot during these crazy times: The federal government recently announced the expansion of telehealth services, also known as an online doctor, in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. Most providers will now be reimbursed for virtual care at the same rate they are for in-person visits.
Using telehealth services, patients and providers will be able to communicate virtually. This will help patients avoid unnecessary office or hospital visits, hopefully lowering their risk for contracting COVID-19.
“To protect public health, the bill will allow Medicare providers to extend telemedicine services to seniors regardless of where they live, at an estimated cost of $500 million,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. The expansion of services is a part of the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, intending to make services more accessible during a time of crisis.
What to do? Ask your medical marijuana provider if they offer telehealth consults. If yes, prepare for the appointment as you would any other, with some key differences:
Practice your message or question before you go online. Just like any other visit, take a minute to review your complaint. You’ll be more prepared and the telehealth visit will go more smoothly.
Use a decent webcam. You want your doctor to be able to see any of your visual symptoms, right?
Test your equipment before you start. Before your first telehealth visit, check to make sure your volume’s on, the audio is clear, and your camera and microphone are working.
Set your camera at eye-level. If you make eye contact, it’s easier to keep your doctor engaged in what you’re saying.
Use a stable connection. A wired or cellular connection is always prone to interruptions, so use an ethernet cable if you can.
Find a quiet space. Don’t log on from a busy train station! Eliminating distractions is crucial to a telehealth visit.
Email Your Provider
More doctors’ offices are allowing patients to communicate by email, especially during these times. But this method requires you to follow these basic guidelines:
Learn your medical marijuana doctor’s email policies. Check in to see what questions the office is comfortable answering by computer, response times, whether messages go into your permanent medical record and who else in the office sees incoming e-mails.
Don’t assume privacy. The feds are relaxing potential penalties for HIPAA violations against health care providers that serve patients during the COVID-19 emergency. So keep communication high level.
Never email urgent matters or questions. Call the office — or 911 — instead.
Provide identifying info. You remember your doctor, but does your doctor remember you? Probably not. So include your full name, date of birth and, if you have it, your patient identification number in your email.
Don’t expect an instant response. Most offices get back to you within 24 or 48 hours.
No jokes! No forwarding weed jokes, witty pot sayings or political diatribes. Remember, you can’t assume privacy, especially now.
Turn to your Pharmacy for Help
Pharmacies offer services that can minimize your exposure to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. Besides offering telehealth and video consults, many also offer these services as well:
Delivery services. Ask about at home delivery or curbside pickup for your medication.
Longer supplies. If you’re taking a 30-day medication, ask if your prescription is eligible for a 90-day or early refill option.
Vaccinations. Getting immunizations for flu and pneumonia is important, especially if you are using medical marijuana for an underlying condition that weakens your immune system. Your pharmacy may offer them for free.