In March of 2020, our large medical practice, like many, tackled the question of how to continue to provide effective care for a large patient population in light of a government-mandated shutdown. There was endless uncertainty and patients needed healthcare information and their physicians quickly, and most offices were now closed.
Telemedicine emerged and instantly platforms were up and running, and the solution arrived. This technology evolved in a short time and is now a mainstay for care for many patients both at home and back in the workplace.
Telemedicine visits are easy to schedule during the regular clinic and off hours, with providers rendering service from home and their offices; it is an incredibly efficient way to provide care and exchange information in a secure and documentable fashion. Patients and providers have embraced this unique access to provide and receive care in a manner that was never before accessible. The use of live video chat allows for more detailed interaction with the insight to pick up on a patient’s physical cues, the ability to share reports and photographic information, and demonstrate the use of a product, treatment, or medication. Telemedicine has allowed patients that have relocated near and far for work or school to stay in touch with the healthcare provider they have relied on for years. I am currently caring for a number of patients living internationally and throughout the States.
The advantages of telemedicine and live video chat are endless and can be tailored to a specific medical or surgical specialty. I have used telemedicine to gather family members living in different locations into a conversation regarding a loved one in need who requires assistance and support. It is also a great way to review a complex diagnosis that may not have full be understood during a recent visit. Additionally, physician extenders and nurses can use video chat to prepare a patient for a procedure, enforce patient compliance, and review complex medications and therapeutic protocols. Video chat is also a great way to check in on an ill patient with minimal cost and no travel.
In summary, telehealth is a paradigm shift in the delivery and access to medical care. It is incredibly versatile for both providers and patients. It will undoubtedly be demonstrated to improve patient outcomes. It is a technology that is here to stay and is a necessary tool for every healthcare delivery system.
Mitchell. Spinnell, MD