Would you be willing to convert all of your regular doctor visits to telemedicine visits? Where telemedicine used to be out of the question for doctors and patients alike, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing all of us to rethink things. Indeed, the pandemic has made physician jobs synonymous with telemedicine.
Social distancing has forced private and group practices all across the country to close their physical doors. But that is not stopping doctors from seeing patients. Instead of office visits, they are relying on telephone calls and video conferencing. Patients are screened via telemedicine for COVID-19 symptoms, with those presenting the right symptoms being treated for coronavirus.
Money and Support
Telemedicine is nothing new. The technology to make it work has been around for quite some time. Yet it has not gained a foothold in the U.S. because the industry and patients alike are wary about trying new things. We live in a society that values the one-on-one relationship between patient and doctor. It is a relationship many are not willing to turn over to cell phones and computers.
That may be changing in the wake of COVID-19. According to the New York Times, Congress used the occasion of one of the emergency stimulus bills to loosen the restrictions on telemedicine under the Medicare program. The goal is to expand telemedicine for treating patients age 65 and older without requiring them to visit a physical office. With the expansion of telemedicine comes more government money spent to cover doctor visits.
The New York Times says that private insurance companies are following suit. Some have stepped up and said they would now cover previously uncovered telemedicine visits. They say they are committed to making sure their customers get the care they need without having to worry about out-of-pocket costs.
Streamlining Primary Care
Telemedicine can be quite beneficial to all sorts of physician jobs. What we are seeing right now relates mostly to GPs and family medicine practitioners whose offices have closed. Those offices have set up emergency phone numbers and video conferencing solutions to guarantee sick patients can still be seen.
So how is it working? Quite well, according to the New York Times. Telemedicine is having the effect of streamlining primary care by allowing doctors to see patients remotely. Instead of patients sitting in crowded waiting rooms and potentially spreading sickness among themselves, they are seeing their doctors in the privacy of their own homes.
Doctors have fewer distractions, meaning they can address patients more efficiently. They can see more patients via telemedicine than they can in the office. Just in sheer numbers alone, telemedicine is performing incredibly well.
It’s All about Symptoms
Telemedicine is not necessarily the right option for every healthcare need. But what makes it so valuable for primary care is its ability to replicate what happens in the office. During a normal office visit, the physician starts by asking the patient questions about his or her symptoms. In many cases, there is no need for any further examination. Doctors can give sound advice based on the symptoms observed.
That same thing can be done over the phone or with video conferencing. Unless there is a specific need to examine the patient above and beyond observing symptoms, there’s no need for a face-to-face meeting in a physical office.
There would be no COVID-19 pandemic in a perfect world. But this world is not perfect, and COVID-19 is here. Perhaps one of the benefits that comes out of it all is a greater appreciation for telemedicine. Maybe physician jobs will remain synonymous with telemedicine from this point forward.