Since the outset of Covid-19, many patients have been opting or encouraged to use telemedicine for visits with their physicians, and I saw this as a good option then, but also going forward. I always thought telemedicine would be ideal for rural as well as disabled patients, and frankly, for patients who have no access to medical care…even in other countries. Medicare was not willing to pay for doctors to do telemedicine…until Covid-19. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Many of us are slowly getting the hang of telemedicine, but many (docs as well as patients) still struggle with it, and we should continue to take steps to improve access to our patients.
Austin, as well as other cities around the country and world, have gradually opened up for more personal interaction, and we’ve definitely seen increased numbers of patients in the office. And frankly, orthopedic surgeons must see the majority of our patients in person. But I still see telemedicine remaining a viable option going forward. I don’t know how long it will be before elderly and high-risk patients will feel totally comfortable coming back to the office unless they have an urgent concern or need treatment they receive in-office.
I also see telemedicine as a convenient way for busy people, and for those who just have simple questions, to be evaluated or get answers. I’ve always said that everyone should have a doctor in their family, or someone they can just call if they have a question. I get a text or call from at least one or two friends/family a day who have medical inquiries. Many of my patients; even young, healthy patients are using telemedicine to ask questions about their conditions. It’s becoming harder and harder to get accurate information from the Internet. Even I have trouble finding accurate, dependable information regarding many medical conditions. Much of what’s on there is now biased advertisement, and I really have to dig to find unbiased, scholarly information, unless I know exactly what I’m looking for. I think telemedicine offers an option to seeking misinformation on the Internet.
Certainly, there are many patients who must see their doctor in the office or emergency room. Most of the time, they know this intuitively. But not always. Telemedicine offers the opportunity see if they need to come in. I direct some telemedicine patients to the office, once I have spoken with them regarding their condition. I might need an X-ray, or to examine them in the flesh. Or I might direct them to the ER. But there are a lot of conditions I can evaluate initially and certainly in follow up, without X-rays and by just looking at the patient, or having them point to the area of concern! Telemedicine is ideal for this. I’m still keeping the telemedicine option open, and plan to do so indefinitely. And I love the option to wear my scrub tops and pajama bottoms…and NO MASK! We can see each other smile!