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A Pandemic Benefit: The Expansion of Telemedicine


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A virtual visit with the doctor.

Telemedicine increasingly is being integrated into routing medical care.

Credit: Gracia Lam

Even if no other good for health care emerges from the coronavirus crisis, one development — the incorporation of telemedicine into routine medical care — promises to be transformative. Using technology that already exists and devices that most people have in their homes, medical practice over the internet can result in faster diagnoses and treatments, increase the efficiency of care and reduce patient stress.

Without having to travel to a doctor's office or clinic, patients can have many ailments "seen" on a computer, tablet, or smartphone by a health care practitioner and have treatment prescribed as needed. For patients like me, who won't return to medical offices that keep me waiting long past my scheduled appointment time, being able to "see" the doctor in my home most often at the prearranged time will be more than enough to encourage a telemedicine visit when feasible.

A televisit is like having a videoconference with one's doctor, with technology improving health care even in ways no one has yet thought of, Dr. Angela Fusaro, founder of Physician 360, a telemedicine company, told me.

"Telemedicine will definitely be part of the future of medicine," said Dr. Emil Baccash, a geriatrician in Brooklyn, NY, who set up remote access for his patients when COVID-19 struck the city. Dr. Baccash is my personal physician, and during a recent telemedicine visit, while I sat at my home computer, he diagnosed a likely rotator cuff injury by having me move my painful right arm into different positions. Although an M.R.I. is likely needed to confirm my exact problem, until the coronavirus threat eases and I can safely have the scan done, physical therapy exercises, also available via telemedicine, may alleviate it.

For nearly two months now, as the coronavirus ravaged many communities large and small throughout the country, most patients have been unable or unwilling to access in-person care from health professionals. Even if someone is able to get to a doctor's office or clinic safely, who wants to sit in a waiting room where you or another patient might transmit the infection? But with an Internet connection through a computer, tablet, or even a smartphone, patients can safely show various body parts to an examiner who is then able to recommend treatment or order a test or prescription that can be delivered to the patient's home by the nearest pharmacy.

 

From The New York Times
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