Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition that affects a protein in the body that makes mucus and sweat, leading to problems with the lungs and digestive system. If you or a family member is living with CF, you may be concerned about the risk of contracting COVID-19 and taking extra precautions to stay safe at home.
However, you might need to see a doctor to manage your CF or for another medical concern. In this case, telehealth could be a viable option for you to speak with your medical team.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that people with CF might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. People with CF who are immunocompromised due to a lung or other organ transplant are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Telehealth is a way of communicating with your healthcare team through digital communications. This can be through videoconferencing, text messages, email, mobile health apps, and specially designed remote patient monitoring systems.
Telehealth During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an upsurge in telehealth. It offers a safe and convenient option to access health care. CF patients and their families report it is a successful and effective way to communicate with their medical team.
When to Use Telehealth for Cystic Fibrosis
You can use telehealth to speak to your doctor, nurse, or healthcare professional for non-urgent concerns about your CF. For example, telehealth can be used to:
- Self-report new, non-urgent respiratory symptoms
- Report and discuss lung function results (for those who have in-home lung function testing equipment)
- Monitor your condition with at-home monitoring technology
- Talk through your CF self-management plan
- Go through breathing exercises with your healthcare team and discuss any problems with the exercises, clearance techniques, or clearance aids (such as a flutter or PEP mask)
- Discuss any non-urgent issues, concerns, or educational matters about your CF
- Meet your multidisciplinary team for a routine visit
- Partake in a virtual exercise program
- Ask questions about medication or refill a prescription
- Meet with mental health or therapy professionals
- Discuss other non-CF related, non-urgent healthcare problems such as a mild rash, pink eye, sore throat, ear infection, etc.
You May Need to Be Seen In Person If…
- You need to submit a sputum sample.
- Your healthcare professional needs to physically examine you (such as listening to your breathing or heart).
- You need to have your vital observations measured (such as heart rate, blood pressure, or oxygen saturation).
- You need to have lung function tests.
- You require in-person support with chest physical therapy.
You should call 911 or go to the emergency room if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Severe shortness of breath and unable to form a sentence
- Fatigue due to increased effort of breathing
- Severe non-stop coughing or wheezing
- The skin between the ribs or just above the collarbone is getting sucked in with each breath
- Drowsiness/difficult to rouse
- Chest tightness, heaviness, or pain that spreads to your arms, back, neck, and jaw
- New onset of blue fingers or lips
- Coughing up mucus with more than a few streaks of blood
Benefits and Challenges
Research into using telehealth for CF is not as prevalent as with some other chronic conditions. The use of telehealth for CF has become more common during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Telehealth has been found helpful in offering care options that overcome many of the inconveniences and safety concerns surrounding in-person appointments. However, the level of monitoring and in-depth support often required in routine CF care means that telehealth is not always a viable option.
Self-management of CF can be intense and time consuming. With this in mind, studies have identified that remote monitoring and telehealth…
Read More:Telehealth for Cystic Fibrosis