7 Bladder and Kidney Conditions Treated in Telehealth Visits

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • Telehealth (or telemedicine) has been used to provide care to rural and remote patients for decades. Its usage has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic to include almost anyone who needs non-urgent health care. Individual health systems and providers decide which conditions can be treated in a telehealth visit, and many providers now offer urology telehealth for conditions like a bladder infection or kidney stones. (Keep in mind that many urological conditions require urine testing, which can’t be performed through telehealth.) Find out which conditions your provider may offer through urology telemedicine.

  • 1
    Urinary Tract Infection
    woman in bathroom pressing her hand to her pelvic area indicating pain or cramping

    Urinary tract infection (UTI) is the general term for an infection involving any portion of the genitourinary system. Most UTIs involve the lower structures including the bladder and urethra. UTIs may be the most common urological condition that can be treated in a telehealth visit. During a typical UTI telemedicine visit, you’ll describe your symptoms to the healthcare provider on the other side of the video screen. You should mention any prior history of UTIs, as well as current symptoms. Your provider may require you to visit a lab and provide a urine specimen to confirm the infection, but the initial evaluation and treatment—providing a prescription for antibiotics—can all be done through telehealth.

  • 2
    Kidney Infection
    Senior man in carpentry workshop with back pain or nerve pain

    A kidney infection can develop on its own or occur as a result of not treating a lower UTI. In a kidney infection, bacteria grow inside the kidney, causing painful inflammation. In a kidney infection telehealth visit, the healthcare provider will ask you several questions about any pain you’re experiencing, the color of your urine, urinary difficulties, and more. Your healthcare provider may diagnose and prescribe treatment for your kidney infection during the telehealth appointment, but you may have to provide a urine specimen to confirm the diagnosis.

  • 3
    Kidney Stones
    Kidney stones

    Kidney stones are small “rocks” of minerals and other substances that form in the kidneys and usually pass out of the urinary tract through the urine stream. Sometimes kidney stones fully or partially block the flow of urine, and that requires medical intervention. For kidney stones, telehealth is a way to describe your symptoms to your urologist and get a prescription. The medicine relaxes your urinary tract and allows the stones to pass. You may need to provide blood or urine samples at a nearby lab as well as an abdominal X-ray prior to receiving prescription medicine.

  • 4
    Bladder Infection
    At doctors appointment, physician shows patient shape of urine bladder, explaining causes and localization of diseases of bladder and the urinary system

    An infection of the urethra can spread up into the bladder and cause a bladder infection (cystitis). If you have symptoms of a bladder infection or inflammation of the bladder, such as frequent urge to urinate, painful urination, and cloudy or foul-smelling urine, a doctor or other healthcare provider will likely be able to diagnose the infection or less common irritants, offer advice, and prescribe antibiotics or other treatments in a telehealth visit. The provider will ask about your symptoms and history of UTIs or bladder infections. As with any urinary tract infection, you may have to provide a urine sample for analysis at a lab, but that is simpler and faster than an in-person doctor appointment.

  • 5
    Home Dialysis
    adult male standing next to peritoneal dialysis equipment with catheter and saline bag hanging from IV pole

    People who undergo hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis at home may now consult with their urologists and nurses via telehealth. Telehealth in kidney dialysis often includes monitoring blood pressure, assessing ports, reviewing procedures, providing additional training on how to use the equipment, and more. Urology nurses and doctors can check in with you using telehealth at specified times to monitor your health and safety. Not everyone qualifies for home dialysis, but for those who do, using telehealth for routine care saves trips to a dialysis center or the doctor’s office.

  • 6
    Unseen male patient talking to male Caucasian doctor via telemedicine on laptop video chat

    Urinary incontinence, or wetting, is a very common condition that affects men, women and children. A healthcare provider can evaluate urinary incontinence by telehealth, with follow-up testing and treatment by virtual or in-person visits. Your healthcare provider will ask you a series of questions about the incontinence, such as when it started and when it usually occurs, to arrive at a diagnosis. You may need to provide a urine specimen to rule out a UTI or bladder infection as the cause of incontinence. Treatment may include behavior modification, physical therapy tips (such as Kegel exercises), or medication.

  • 7
    Urinary System Cancers
    senior Asian female cancer patient waving at tablet and sitting on couch during telehealth appointment

    Follow-up care for certain types of urinary cancers—such as bladder cancer—may be conducted by telehealth. Post-surgical or post-treatment visits likely can be conducted by telehealth as well. You can even direct your computer or phone camera toward any healing incisions for the healthcare provider to assess. A doctor may perform an initial evaluation of a potential urinary cancer using telehealth, although an in-person visit and imaging exams are necessary to complete the diagnosis.

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  1. Telehealth. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/telehealth.html
  2. Telehealth Fact Sheet. Urology Care Foundation. https://www.urologyhealth.org/educational-resources/telehealth
  3. Kidney Stones. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/kidneystones.html
  4. 5 Things to Know About Telemedicine. National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/content/5-things-know-about-telemedicine
  5. Kidney Stones. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-stones/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355759
  6. Home Hemodialysis. National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/homehemo
  7. Boehm K, Ziewers S, Brandt MP, et al. Telemedicine Online Visits in Urology During the COVID-19 Pandemic—Potential, Risk Factors, and Patients’ Perspective. Eur Urol. 2020 Jul; 78(1): 16–20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32362498/
  8. CMS Proposes to Boost Telehealth Use in Home Dialysis Programs. mHealth Intelligence. https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/cms-proposes-to-boost-telehealth-use-in-home-dialysis-programs

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 17
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