The COVID-19 pandemic has required us all to get a little more creative with technology. There are virtual conferences, virtual happy hours—and now virtual doctor’s appointments.
In response to nationwide shutdowns, virtual doctor’s appointments—also known as telehealth or telemedicine appointments—have become the new norm for provider practices like Carroll Health Group.
“There’s no playbook for this moment,” says Mark Olszyk, M.D., chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs for Carroll Hospital, who was part of the team that helped launch Carroll Health Group’s telehealth system in early March. “Carroll Health Group saw what it had to do to care for its patients, and it changed course in record time. I could not be more proud of the team.”
Using a HIPAA-compliant, secure video conferencing platform, Carroll Health Group providers completed more than 6,000 telehealth appointments in just the first seven weeks of the statewide shutdown. (Standard phone appointments are also offered for patients that don’t have a camera-equipped smartphone, tablet or computer.) As patients and providers grow more comfortable with the technology, the popularity of the service is growing.
“Evaluating our patients while they’re at home is actually proving to be more advantageous than we even imagined,” says Dana Saunders, Carroll Health Group’s executive director of physician practices. “If a patient says, ‘It hurts when I walk up my steps,’ the provider can ask the patient, ‘Let me see you walk up your steps.’ Telehealth lets us really see the problem. Many of our patients feel they are getting more one-on-one quality time with their providers as a result.”
Carroll Health Group primary care specialist Lucas Couch, D.O., agrees. “If anything, telehealth is making providers more accessible,” he says. “Prior to this, I’d see a patient with acute symptoms once, but it would be tough to get them to take time out of their schedule for a follow-up visit. Now, with telehealth, I can follow up with a patient as often as needed because it’s just a 10- or 15-minute video chat session, and the patient doesn’t have to go anywhere. It all leads to better care.”
Of course, there are still health issues that require an office visit. “If we sense that the patient is having serious concerns during a telehealth visit, we may recommend they come into the office for additional cardiac testing,” says Carroll Health Group cardiologist Evan Selsky, M.D. “And if the patient is having dangerous warning signs, we may recommend going to the emergency room, coronavirus or no coronavirus.”
For such visits, all Carroll Health Group offices follow a host of protocols—from temperature-checking patients at the door to installing plexiglass guards—to keep patients and staff safe. But for the majority of appointments, telehealth visits are not just a solution for today—they very likely represent the future of healthcare.
“Telehealth can provide you with the care you need, while staying in the comfort and safety of your home,” says Dr. Selsky. “As the technology gets better and better, this will become a standard healthcare tool. One day, we will all look back and say, ‘Can you believe we used to sit around in the doctor’s waiting room?'”
Make your telehealth appointment now. Don’t put your health on hold. Visit CarrollHealthGroup.com to find the provider that’s right for you.