If the COVID-19 pandemic has brought anything into stark relief these last nine-ish months, it’s that everything we used to do in person back in the good-ol’-days, that we now do over the video conferencing tools we now find so ubiquitous, was — as, perhaps, expected — far more satisfying and/or effective when we, well, did it IN person.
Take job interviews, for example. Talk to an HR rep anywhere and they’ll tell you, it’s difficult to truly get a read on someone — their body language, how they comport themselves, etc. — when they’re stuck in 2D on your computer screen. Or take the holidays: Pretty hard to get the full family experience — the bad jokes, the food smells, the drama — when you’re holding Thanksgiving over FaceTime. And our sincerest apologies to the long-running Friday-night Zoom “parties,” but you’ll never be as fun as a good old-fashioned hang.
Now, given that anyone in their right mind would agree with this inalienable fact of pandemic life, you’d likely assume that seeing your doctor would also be a less-than-satisfying experience; after all, how can a doctor in an entirely different zip code ever give someone a proper examination?
But after getting a chance to try out Forward at Home, Forward’s virtual version of their baseline visit, I think I can safely say that doctor’s appointments represent the exception to the rule.
Take My Blood, Please!
When you think of a virtual doctor’s visit, what comes to mind? Something entirely “virtual,” I suspect? For me at least, prior to my experience with Forward at Home, I pictured a physician and their patient chatting on some 2000s-era video-conferencing software, the picture pixelated and the connection tenuous at best.
Say what you will about the fairness of that preconceived notion — and it isn’t fair, as you’ll find out a little bit further down — what I would have NEVER expected was there to be any sort of physical interaction to accompany the virtual one. So color me surprised when, in scheduling my Forward at Home appointment through the app, I was also set up with a phlebotomist (a fancy word for the person who draws your blood) to come to my house.
Sure enough, at 10 a.m. a day before my appointment, I found myself sitting outside on my deck, mask on, getting my blood drawn by a nice guy in full COVID protection gear. In times like these, it was nice that all consideration was taken to make the blood draw as simple and safe as possible; all precautions were taken, I didn’t have to drive anywhere, in fact, I barely had to get out of bed. The whole thing took five minutes, was easy as pie, and signified to me at least that Forward’s idea of a virtual doctor’s visit was likely going to be what the kids these guys describe as “extra.”
Show Me the Data
To be honest, I was a little surprised that Forward schedules the blood draw and the virtual baseline appointment so close together; in my previous experiences with our glorious healthcare system, nothing takes a day, certainly not a blood test — in fact you’d be lucky to get test results back two or three days later. But with Forward, quick turnarounds do seem to be the norm, and so it wasn’t actually that strange to be logging into Forward’s system for my doctor’s appointment so soon thereafter.
At 9 a.m. on the button, sitting in bed in my pajamas, I found myself face-to-face with not only a crystal clear picture of my doctor — the excellent Dr. Richard Lam from Forward’s Glendale office — but with Forward’s proprietary “Smart Screen,” too, or at least, a virtual version of it. On it, amazingly, was all of the data and findings from my blood test.
Going over your data is kind of Forward’s thing, you see; whereas a lot of regular doctors ask probing questions during an initial visit to try and infer the state of your health (in lieu of reviewing blood work they likely either don’t have back or haven’t taken yet), the speed at which Forward can test you and get the results of those tests back means they can use actual data to help design a personalized health plan for you on Day 1.
Dr. Lam dove right in. We went over my lipid panel, my liver function and number of other key highlights, all of which gave both my doctor and me a clear picture of my health, and what we needed to do together to get into tip-top shape.
For example, I’m a little hypertensive, so Dr. Lam reviewed my blood pressure numbers and recommended that I participate in Forward’s hypertension program; I’m also what I would describe as ever-so-slightly out of shape, so we discussed concrete changes to not only my lifestyle, but to my diet as well.
Let’s Talk Results
When the call was over an hour or so later, I felt even better than I did at my previous IRL baseline with Forward. Not only did I have an even greater understanding of where I was health-wise thanks to Dr. Lam taking time to talk through a lot of my seriously dumb questions, but I felt like I had clear action items to take care of on my end to set myself up for success.
The whole experience was comfortable, easy, and just as in-depth and illuminating as you’d expect an in-person visit to be. If there’s one thing about Forward doctors, it’s that they’re all incredibly easy to talk to; at no point was the fact that we had never met prior to talking over a computer connection an issue, and Dr. Lam mixed in plenty of banter in between deftly examining insights about my health. As I said at the start, so much of what’s moved online from what was previously an IRL experience is a poor facsimile. But the Forward at Home experience was, arguably just as good, if not better.
Plus, I didn’t have to schlep anywhere. Win-win.