THIRTEEN YEARS AGO, Deltra W. was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, a condition that causes the immune system to attack the thyroid gland. As a result, the thyroid doesn’t produce enough metabolism-regulating hormone.
This is the most confident I’ve felt about my health in years.
By monitoring the disease with regular blood tests and doctor visits, taking medication and watching her diet, Deltra managed her condition. But recently, the Houston, Texas, resident was laid off and lost her health insurance because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, Deltra noticed that her symptoms had returned: weight gain, headaches and hand tremors. “I needed to get this checked,” she recalls. “But because of the pandemic, I didn’t have insurance. And I was afraid to go into a doctor’s office because I was worried about getting COVID.”
A Virtual Solution
While scrolling on social media, Deltra saw an ad for Paloma Health, an online medical practice devoted to hypothyroidism. “I thought, ‘Is this a scam?’” she says. “I’m not going to a doctor’s office? A doctor isn’t going to examine me in person?” But Deltra decided to try the telehealth service, and paid $99 for an at-home thyroid blood test to check her hormone levels. The test was easy, she says: She watched a video and followed written steps. A week later, Detra had her test results. As she had suspected from her symptoms, her hormone levels were elevated.
Through the Paloma app, Deltra chatted by video call with a doctor who put her back on medication and outlined a treatment plan, involving further lab work and a regimen of vitamins. Deltra also spoke with a nutritionist about foods to avoid, as they could interfere with thyroid function.
After each session, she got a detailed description of what was discussed, the doctor’s notes, a list of the medicines, vitamins and lab work she needed and a reminder of when she should schedule her next appointment.
Once doubtful of the quality of care that telehealth could offer, Deltra now feels she actually gets more personal attention. “I got a lot more one-on-one time using telemedicine,” Deltra says. “In person, the doctor is rushed, but this doctor took her time. She explained every single thing.” As a result, she says, she feels she can manage her condition well. “Now I have a handle on what I need to do,” Deltra says. “That really helped me; I feel a lot better.” Her symptoms have improved and she’s on a regular check-in schedule with her doctor.
If anything, Deltra says she wishes she knew about telehealth sooner. “I was so skeptical before,” she says. “But these are real doctors and real results that are tailored to you. You will receive the help, guidance, support and medicine that you need. Especially during these times, you don’t have to travel or risk catching anything. And you have more privacy.” And for patients without insurance, Deltra says telemedicine was the best move for her health. “I had lost hope. I don’t have health insurance,” she says. “But now, this is the most confident I’ve felt about my health in years.”