As New York’s medical marijuana program continues to add qualifying conditions, more folks throughout the Empire State are looking to get their New York medical marijuana cards. For those in the five boroughs and beyond, getting a medical marijuana recommendation requires a doctor’s consultation, which means one more appointment to make, then wait for, and finally get to on time (assuming their train is running that day).
To save time, patients from Buffalo to Brooklyn are increasingly turning to telemedicine services like PrestoDoctor, which starts serving patients in New York state this week. These remote visits turn a doctor’s office visit into a convenient online meeting that can be conducted from the comfort of home.
New York’s list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana is evolving continually. But many of the qualifying conditions, including cancer and nerve damage, share a common symptom—pain, which is often treated with medications such as opioids. For some of the physicians working with PrestoDoctor, that treatment regimen piqued their interest in medical cannabis in the first place because they were seeking alternatives that better serve their patients.
“I was working in pain management, which meant sending many of my patients home with opioid prescriptions. I started to feel like there had to be a better answer out there,” says Dr. David Nguyen, a California anesthesiologist who has been working with PrestoDoctor since 2015. “They don’t teach you about cannabis in med school, so I started doing my own research, and pretty soon I was sold on the potential of medical marijuana.”
Dr. Nguyen is hardly alone. Throughout the state of New York, more than 1,300 doctors are now registered to recommend medical marijuana. In a state with nearly 20 million people, though, that means patients with qualifying conditions may be put off by long waits for an appointment with a doctor who is qualified to make a recommendation for medical marijuana.
PrestoDoctor has been using telemedicine to help medical marijuana patients in California and Nevada to connect directly with physicians registered to recommend medical marijuana since 2015. For many patients, though, the idea of making a doctor’s appointment without actually being in the same room as the doctor can be off-putting—especially when they’re preparing to learn about a treatment that may still be unfamiliar.
An online medical marijuana evaluation is like any other doctor’s appointment, just conducted from the comfort of your home. Patients should be ready to start their call on time and be prepared to help the physician understand their condition and concerns.
Patients should also be ready to share details of their medical history and help a physician understand what brought them to the appointment. Since you’ll be discussing private matters, you’ll want to be in a private space where you feel at ease.
Additionally, patients should be prepared to share some non-medical details during a PrestoDoctor appointment, as a physician’s recommended medical marijuana treatment may be influenced by those factors.
“If I’m consulting with a dad of small kids, he may not want a grinder and other paraphernalia around the house, for instance,” says Dr. Nguyen. “In that case, I’d probably recommend something like a vaporizer with a little lower profile. It’s all about finding a solution that works for every patient as an individual.”
One of the perks of telemedicine is that it makes it easy to have a trusted friend or family member in the appointment with a patient, if they choose to do so. Talking about medical issues—especially ones involving chronic pain—can be hard, and some patients find the support of another person helpful. Just make sure they show up on the video screen so your consulting physician can see and hear everyone involved, says Dr. Nguyen.
Of course, some patients will prefer to keep their medical issues close to the vest. In these security-sensitive days, individuals concerned about sharing information about their medical history over the internet can relax. Telemedicine services like PrestoDoctor employ HIPAA-compliant, secure video-conferencing links that keep the conversation strictly between patient and doctor.
Above all, it’s helpful to remember that physicians recommending medical marijuana via telemedicine services are aiming to help patients get better, not just help them get cannabis. Expect a consultation to be thorough, and take as long as a normal doctor’s appointment would—minus travel and time spent in the waiting room leafing through old issues of People, of course. And if it turns out that medical cannabis isn’t the right treatment option for you, there’s no charge for the consultation through PrestoDoctor.
Unlike other services, PrestoDoctor’s physician recommendations come with medical marijuana treatment plans personalized to every patient. Patients who receive a medical marijuana recommendation will also receive information on dosage, frequency, delivery systems, and more from physicians with experience recommending medical cannabis.
“As a doctor, having good staff is half of your success, and something that’s really struck me with PrestoDoctor is the quality of their service and support,” says Dr. Nguyen. “I chose PrestoDoctor—and I choose to stay only with them—because of the system they’ve created, which has patient needs at its heart.”