Virtual Visits with Hearing Loss
By Christine Morgan, HLAA-TC President
(Originally published in our May 2020 newsletter)
What happens when you have hearing loss and can’t see your healthcare provider face-to-face? Have you had the “virtual visit” experience? Has it been satisfactory for you? Let me give you four of my personal examples.
- A routine follow-up visit with a physician. The physician uses “doxy”, my computer evidently doesn’t like doxy and my camera won’t work to allow the physician to see me. Physician calls me on home phone and captioning is spotty and doesn’t start right away. Not a great experience!
- A planned visit that has to go virtual. Healthcare provider can’t see me (what in the heck is wrong with my camera? It works with Skype). I watch the provider’s face and mostly understand what she is saying but no captioning. I need things repeated.
- Minor skin problem. Emailed the physician’s office. They informed me that I needed to put their app on my cell phone. Once I did, I had a virtual visit. We could see each other (yeah!) but no captioning. Physician not very adept at holding still and I got different views of her face, legs, jeans, etc. during the call. Amusing, but…
- Another routine follow-up visit (different doctor). The physician also uses “doxy”. My camera would not function (big surprise, right?). Remember, my camera has this aversion to doxy. She then called my cell phone where I could see her but had a lot of trouble hearing and understanding her as she moved around and was pulling up my chart on her computer. See later notes!
So when we got the information from national about people with hearing loss and telehealth, I decided to reach out to the four practices. Their websites did not help at all. Calling did not help me find the right person. Frustrating, you ask?
I did the next best thing: sent an email through their version of MyChart as a “general question” and telling them about my experience and the 20% of the population with hearing loss that need to understand their medical provider. I did say how much I liked and trusted the provider at their practice. I also sent the link letting them know that they were out of compliance with the communication access section of ADA.
Twenty minutes later, I got a personal call from the 4th doctor on this list (see above). She was very upset that I hadn’t understood all she said on the cell phone (with camera working). I explained the needs of those of us with hearing loss and that I was trying to reach administration or IT to let them know what a serious problem this is. Who could help provide the needed captioning? She stated she would pass it on.
Five minutes later, she sent a link to my cell phone. Both her camera and mine worked this time and she apologized that it didn’t provide captioning. She made it a point to look directly into the camera and ensure that I was understanding. She also said she does deal with a lot of people with hearing loss and realizes what a problem that could be for them. She will bring it up to the “powers that be”.
Though, she will pass the information on, she wasn’t very confident that accommodations could be made quickly. No surprise there. What I was surprised about were the personal calls from her, not her nurse or assistant. Pretty impressive even though it lacked captioning.
I hope your experience has (or will be) different, should you need a virtual visit. I’m attaching the link to the article to pass on (if you are able).
And, did I mention, after about 12-15 minutes on my captioned landline phone call, the captioning cuts off, and the phone hangs up? That was my experience while I was doing a research project regarding COVID-19 and people with hearing loss. The captioning stopped and the phone hung up 3 times. Like we don’t have enough stress at this time!
I would love to hear about your experiences with virtual visits! Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We may even publish them without your name, if you would like to share with us.
We’d love to hear from you!
Blog Note: We will be publishing a few of the articles from our May 2020 newsletter in upcoming blogs. As always, if you have something you would like to see featured in an upcoming blog, please comment on this blog post or connect with us on Facebook or LinkedIn. Stay safe. Stay healthy. And stay informed.