Virtual Visits Connect Patient with Orthopaedic Specialist for a Positive Outcome

Severe shoulder pain was disrupting Lynn Whitley's life.

The North Carolina resident had her first shoulder surgery in 2012, and endured eight surgeries, including two failed shoulder replacements, because of infection.

"I was feeling a little down and out about it, thinking my quality of life is really not what I want it to be," says Lynne. "And I'm going to find the best shoulder surgeon in the United States that deals with complex and complicated surgeries."

Lynne's research led her to Joseph Iannotti, MD, PhD, Chairman, Orthopaedic and Rheumatologic Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

Lynne and her husband, Steve, drove 400 miles to Cleveland Clinic. After a comprehensive evaluation, Dr. Iannotti determined that a two-stage surgical approach was appropriate. First, the prosthesis needed to be removed, and the infection cleaned out and treated. The second stage would be a reconstruction and a new prosthesis.

The first surgery was successful; however, two weeks later, Lynne ended up in the emergency room back in North Carolina.

"Her husband sent me a text message saying the doctors think her shoulder is infected again and they want to admit her to the hospital for surgery," says Dr. Iannotti. "I did a virtual visit so I was able to talk to her, examine her shoulder."

"We held our phone up to let Dr. Iannotti see and examine the redness and inflammation and he said it was normal," adds Lynne.

The virtual visit averted yet another surgery for Lynne and an unnecessary hospital readmission.

"We've got great surgeons in the area that we live in, but we don't have a Dr. Joseph Iannotti and I don't know any other way we could have done this unless we could have done it via the internet through virtual visits. It worked out beautifully."

Three months later, Lynne returned to Cleveland Clinic for her final surgery; Dr. Iannotti implanted a new prosthesis. Lynne went back home to North Caroline for rehab, and Dr. Iannotti saw her periodically through Cleveland Clinic Express Care® Online virtual visits.

"A lot of the things that orthopedic surgeons do is based on a physical exam that the patient performs," explains Dr. Iannotti. "Whether you're in my office or showing me on your computer or smart phone, I ask how far you can raise your arm or reach behind your back. It's my observation of what the patient can do. You can see things like atrophy, loss of function. You can ask patients to describe their pain."

"Dr. Iannotti was able to see my incision," says Lynne. "He was able to see how well I could move, my mobility. It feels as though he's right here in my living room and I'm talking to him. It's so much easier than having to make the visit in an actual office."

"I don't see or feel any different in a virtual visit than in a physical visit," says Dr. Iannotti. "I still feel the same connectivity to the patient. There hasn't been a single patient that I've interacted with who found the virtual visit to be a negative. They've all found it to be positive."

Express Care Online has made it easier for Lynne's husband, Steve, as well.

"We've got great surgeons in the area that we live in, but we don't have a Dr. Joseph Iannotti and I don't know any other way we could have done this unless we could have done it via the internet through virtual visits. It worked out beautifully," says Steve.

"I had almost given up hope of having any quality of life left, says Lynne. "It's given me hope again. That I can still do the things I enjoy doing with my friends, with my precious grandchildren. I owe a lot to everyone at Cleveland Clinic."

Related Institutes: Orthopaedic & Rheumatologic Institute
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