Pulmonary hypertension expert Ronald J. Oudiz, M.D. was the first speaker in the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) virtual wellness series, PHA Connects: COVID-19 and Your Health. Dr. Oudiz, director of the Liu Center for Pulmonary Hypertension at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, and chair of the PHA Scientific Leadership Council, addressed questions about remote medical visits, medication refill requirements, emergency preparedness and safety precautions, among other concerns from the pulmonary hypertension (PH) community.
The April 17 Facebook Live event drew 260 participants. Since then, the video has reached more than 8,000 people, with more than 5,800 unique page views. Read on for highlights, or see the full interview.
Remote health care visits
Your PH team likely will prescreen you by telephone to determine whether you need to see the doctor in the clinic. If your issue can be addressed by video call, ask during the screening call what you can do to prepare for the remote visit. Here are some things Dr. Oudiz suggests you can do:
- List your medications and questions for the doctor beforehand.
- Check your pulse. If you don’t have a device that measures your pulse, Google how to check the pulse in your wrist.
- Take a blood pressure reading if you have a home machine.
- If you have a pulse oximeter, check your blood oxygen levels. Normally, they are about $25, but they might be harder to find in the pandemic.
- Monitor your weight. Some weight gain is expected as people are stuck at home, but if you gain more than a pound a day, it’s probably fluid retention.
Tests for medication refills
Some medications, such as those for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), require regular blood tests before you can refill them, as part of their risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS). They include tests to check liver function or whether you might be pregnant.
If you are running out of medication, contact your doctor. Most manufacturers are allowing pharmacies to refill those medications without blood tests, as long as your doctor authorizes the refill. Your provider will weigh the risks of not doing the tests during the pandemic.
If you’ve been deemed a candidate or are on a transplant wait list, your need for a transplant won’t be diminished by the pandemic. Less than a month ago, his hospital performed a heart-lung transplant. The same is true for someone who’s had a heart attack – emergency medicine and life-saving surgeries will continue.
Expect to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) precautions for handwashing and masks at least through next spring, especially if the virus re-emerges in the fall, as does the seasonal flu. The worry of a rebound is real, and businesses might have to shut down again after a gradual reopening. Continue following CDC cleaning recommendations, which are the same for people with PH as the general public.
PHA Connects is made possible by support from Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, United Therapeutics Corporation, Accredo, Acceleron Pharma and Liquidia Technologies.