Tuesday, July 07, 2020
When I retired in early January of this year I planned to come in to the office one week a month to see patients. Then COVID came along and I found myself jumping right back into medical practice to help out my medical group. I had never done a telemedicine video visit in my career until March; turns out it isn't all that difficult. Now I work from home several days a week. I'm not going into the office for now, as I have three elderly relatives who need my help and I'm trying to minimize any potential exposure so as not to put them at risk.
My group uses a video program which is part of our electronic medical record system, as well as an alternative which is simpler to use called Doximity. (We can also use FaceTime or Zoom, but these systems are discouraged because they don't have the same privacy protections as the other two options.) Mostly they work well, but there are issues from time to time.
We can always resort to telephone visits, but the group strongly emphasizes video visits when possible. The amount of data you can get on a video visit is obviously greater than on a phone call - you can check the patient's appearance as well as their surroundings (are they dressed neatly, disheveled, short of breath, pale?) And to be honest, reimbursement for video visits is better than for telephone visits. These days that is no minor issue. The clinic has reopened but patients continue to be reluctant to come in.
Certainly not all patient issues can be addressed via video, but I would say that overall this system has worked well. My biggest problem with telemedicine is that I need a chair with better back support. After sitting at my desk for four hours straight it's almost impossible to move...
Oh, and edited to add that it's really special when you realize after a four-hour shift that you've been interacting with patients all the while you have a big food stain on your shirt. On the up side, though, you can work barefoot and wearing shorts because no one can see you below the waist. So there's that.