** (for purposes of this article telehealth and telemedicine indicate the same)
While out for a run the other day, my niece noticed her breathing become unusually labored. As she slowed to a walk to collect herself, she began to toss around in her mind all the things that it could be. Before she allowed herself to sink into an all out panic, she remembered that her primary care physician, via video conference, could help her determine a diagnosis.
Telemedicine is a remote method for “visiting” with a healthcare practitioner. Utilizing some sort of Electronic Medical Record (EMR) application, appointments can be scheduled for video or audio conferencing.
Literally overnight, the novel coronavirus has fundamentally shifted how people receive and deliver routine medical help. The numbers that tell the story are mind-boggling: Video visits for Sutter Health patients in Northern California have multiplied an eye-popping 175 times since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stanford Health Care’s use of digital visits has soared by 50 times — from a few dozen a day before the virus hit to 3,000 a day now. And Kaiser, already a leader in video appointments, doubled its online visits.
“I don’t think we’ll ever go back to where we were,” said Craig Wargon, a physician at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara and medical director of The Technology Group, a regional department that develops ways for patients and medical professionals to interact online. “This will probably change the entire medical system.” (The Mercury News April 7, 2020)
What is telemedicine?
To be sure, telemedicine is not new. To date, thousands of patients and doctors have engaged in this capacity. Most patients have used telemedicine with their primary care physicians OR with a concierge service of sorts. Concierge services work similarly in that online relationships are established where patients call/email/video their physician for treatments, pharmaceuticals, refills, diagnoses, referrals, and more. This has garnered popularity in high density populations where traveling to a physician’s clinic for services is an all day affair.
For patients across the US and beyond, telemedicine offers a safe solution to receive healthcare services from the safety and comfort of their own homes. Telemedicine support is the best way to protect yourself and your family, not just due to COVID-19 crisis measures, but because it makes intuitive sense for saving money, time, managing risk and receiving personalized service.
Healthcare practitioners had to gain access to this mode of practice with specific licensure requirements. Now in the presence of SARS -COV2 , the restrictions for practitioners have been lifted in an effort to contain the infectiousness while still providing essential healthcare services. Obviously, there are limitations. Telemedicine is ideally positioned for chronic presentations, mild symptoms, and prevention .
What to consider when looking for a telemedicine healthcare provider:
If your current healthcare provider does not have this capability now is the time to shop around.
HIPAA compliance remains crucial in patient care so that protected information is safeguarded. Do not allow a provider to take this any less seriously now by risking protected information in non-HIPAA video capturing. Make sure to ask your provider whether they are HIPAA compliant in their video captures.
Further, look for and demand solutions wherever possible for testing, drop-ship orders refills and the like that will also minimize risk for health management.
Telemedicine is now. It is safe and effective. It also provides a living, breathing conduit to a healer/coach/advocate. A relationship should be established in times of health so baselines can be measured and tracked. This provides a great deal of comfort which helps to mitigate stress/anxiety in times of a health crisis.
The comfort of having a direct relationship with a licensed practitioner is an indispensable tool. This in and of itself will improve your health outcome in that the belief of being loved and cared for has dramatic effects on the human body.
With the extra time we have today, spend some time asking these questions of your healthcare practitioner. As a simple test, If you can email your physician today and get a response within 24 hours, the chance of their offering this service to you presently is high. If you cannot connect, or get a nonpersonal directive (likely via an answering service response) to call 911 for emergency, your chance of establishing a telemedicine relationship with this provider is quite low.
One of my favorite quotations has always been, “he with health has a thousand wishes, he without health has but one. “
We all know that healthcare is now our primary conversation. We also know our healthcare system was simply not nimble enough to pivot on chronic issues. Sadly, this current crisis has now exposed the inadequacies in catastrophic health care services and its respective supply chain as well. We have the tools and technology to make this happen, where more is needed requires demand from users like us to shift what’s possible.
As a licensed practitioner in Florida, Sandy Ziya is fully poised for telemedicine and is currently accepting new patients. Learn more about her Functional Medicine practice and request a consultation.
This does not constitute medical advice in any way, if you have questions about your personal health situation contact Dr. Ziya OR other licensed medical provider.