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Article Type: Blog

Telemedicine Allows Patients to Continue Path to Weight Loss Surgery Despite Social Distancing

Although everyone is currently living with social distancing guidelines, people who are considering bariatric surgery for weight loss might find that now is an ideal time to get started with their plans.

“It takes three to six months for patients to prepare themselves physically and medically for bariatric surgery,” says Michel Murr, MD, FACS, a board-certified surgeon at the AdventHealth Tampa Bariatric and Metabolic Institute (BMI). “Through modern telemedicine, our center is now offering patients virtual visits so they can start the process of getting healthy as soon as possible,” he continues. 

By completing many of the steps on the pathway to weight loss surgery now – and doing it safely with options for virtual care – patients will be ready sooner for treatment once hospitals reopen for non-emergency procedures. 

The Weight Loss Journey Can Start in a Virtual Setting

A patient’s journey starts with a call to the BMI, where a patient navigator will ask a few questions to find out if bariatric surgery might be right for the patient. If so, a virtual appointment will be scheduled. These appointments are often available within a few days and take place over a secure connection through an app that patients download to their tablets or mobile devices.

This virtual appointment consists of an initial consultation with an AdventHealth Tampa bariatric surgeon and nurse practitioner where the patient can learn about the different weight loss surgery options available and ask questions. A detailed health history will be taken, which may also require consultation with some of the patient’s other doctors. However, Dr. Murr notes that a large portion of each appointment with the BMI is of an educational nature, and patients do not require a physical examination every time.

“We need to meet with a patient in person at least once before surgery, but we can accomplish a lot before then through virtual appointments” he says. “These new virtual visits are easier logistically for patients when they do not have to park at the hospital and find our office. It’s also ideal to meet with patients when it is most convenient for them.”

Virtual Visits with a Dietitian and Other Specialists Improve Patient Health for Surgery

Prior to approving coverage for weight loss surgery, many health insurance companies require patients to take diet classes that help them learn and practice healthy eating – a very important skill they will need after weight loss surgery. To assist in this educational process, patients can meet one-on-one with a dietitian through virtual visits as well. 

However, healthy eating is only one area patients who are candidates for bariatric surgery need to focus on. 

“Patients greatly benefit from having conditions such as diabetes and sleep apnea well-controlled before their weight loss procedures,” says Dr. Murr. Many of his patients have pulmonary issues. “Given the current concerns about the novel coronavirus, patients can do a sleep study at home in their own beds. A chip can be added to their CPAP machines that will upload test information directly to their doctor’s office,” he continues. Dr. Murr also adds that during this time, the BMI care team is trying to minimize blood tests and X-rays as much as possible, so patients do not need to physically report to a medical facility.

Dr. Murr notes that most patients seeking weight loss surgery need to have consultations not only with the bariatric surgeon and dietitian, but also with a psychologist and lung specialist. At AdventHealth Tampa, these other specialist visits can also be virtual, and it is an excellent time to take advantage of the new technology to get these appointments completed. 

More Convenient Care Is Available Now

Patients are giving BMI a lot of positive feedback about the new virtual care format, prized for its convenience. It’s now possible to begin a weight loss surgery journey from the comfort of a living room or without having to travel to the hospital during the middle of a work day. People looking for a way to stay motivated about losing weight can benefit by starting that process now. By preparing for bariatric surgery today, patients will be able to have their weight loss procedure sooner after the hospital returns to normal operations.

If you are considering bariatric surgery for weight loss, virtual appointments at the AdventHealth Tampa Bariatric and Metabolic Institute’s make this an excellent time to get started on your path. To schedule an appointment, call Call813-971-6000.