Well, the time is not here yet for a robot doctor app to greet your patient at home with a vasectomy. I don’t know if patients will ever be ready for anything “automatic” in that area. But, men are getting a little more comfortable with the idea of learning about a vasectomy from the safety of their own homes.
Earlier last year my colleague Dr. Robert Pugach and I began offering online vasectomy consults to our patients. An initial vasectomy consult is mandated by California law to be performed at least 72 hours ahead of the vasectomy. We have worked to make ourselves easily available to patients in most of Southern California, from Los Angeles through Orange County to San Diego and the Inland Empire, with separate offices, but that has been a formidable task with the distances involved. Together, we have performed over 10,000 vasectomies in the last 25 years, and, while we have buttoned down every phase of the experience for our guys and gals, we haven’t been able to control the freeways and the wasted time for those men or couples traveling longer distances. Since our primary goal is the highest patient satisfaction, the idea of performing the initial vasectomy consult over the Internet with the potential for increased patient convenience became intriguing.
In our case, the relatively simple program of GoToMeeting has allowed our patients and us to make that all-important first connection digitally. This has proven especially useful for some of our more distant patients, such as the expatriate from Belize, or with the more recent request from a serviceman in Afghanistan. Interestingly, not all our patients have desired to see our faces, some leaving out the camera and using only the phone. We have now gotten over that disappointment (LOL). With our commitment to offer online appointments after-hours, the whole process has become exceedingly easy for the patient. We just have to make sure that we are dressed appropriately, in case we push the wrong laptop button during our sessions.
We have found that when men finally choose to undergo a vasectomy, they want to do it now. With 10 to 15 minutes for the initial telemedicine consultation and another 10 to 15 minutes for the vasectomy, they have the opportunity to efficiently move quickly through this now usually painless procedure performed in an area of their body that they are “hard-wired” to normally protect.
We have moved into a new stage with some patients requesting a telemedicine visit even when they reside closer to one of our six offices in SoCal. Most patients, though, still wish to come in to have that first consultation. Lack of insurance coverage for the telemedicine consultation is the primary factor for some of these patients. But others still wish to come in and “kick the tires” – see the office and its staff to get as comfortable as possible before our No-Needle No-Scalpel Vasectomy, but we feel good that we can offer patients another way to make “the tiny snip” a non-event — with the help of a computer.
Dr. Ted Benderev is a Board Certified urologist who founded Vasectomy.com. He was the first known physician to perform the No-Needle No-Scalpel Vasectomy in California. He completed his urology training at Northwestern University in Chicago. He enjoys his busy practice and taking some extra time to innovate with 35 patents for surgical instruments in various areas of urology.