Visit a Professional Healthcare Practitioner from the Comfort of HomeOct 30, 2020 10:40AM ● By Linda Sechrist
Some of the changes to our lives that have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic are not yet known to everyone. Individuals that have had no health issues requiring a doctor visit would likely not know about the availability and convenience of telemedicine, which allows patients the opportunity to visit virtually with a professional health practitioner.
Those challenged with finding transportation to a doctor’s office or that are homebound due to physical issues will particularly appreciate using a video enabling device such as tablet or computer to connect with a healthcare provider that can answers questions, evaluate symptoms and provide a diagnosis or support.
While some providers previously did not offer telehealth visits, many integrated it into their practice during the current crisis. Patients can ease into this new aspect by first checking with the doctor and insurance provider to learn what telemedicine options are available, and ask how to schedule a visit. It’s also important to ask what preferred videoconferencing platform a doctor supports, because an internet connection and registration with that platform will be necessary. Most are free.
Because the same in-person administration office procedures are necessary for video visits, keep a health plan ID card handy. Other considerations are making sure there is enough light and minimal background noise in the room used for the call. Avoid sitting in front of a window with bright light streaming in, which makes it difficult for the practitioner to see us.
Local healthcare practitioners such as Dee Harris, registered dietician-nutritionist and owner of D-Signed Nutrition, in Bonita Springs, Deborah Post, advanced registered nurse practitioner and owner of Wellbridges, also in Bonita Springs, and Dr. Carol Roberts, medical director at Naples Center for Functional Medicine, were using telemedicine with some patients prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
“I’ve been practicing more telemedicine since March,” says Roberts. “Prior to that, my secure video chats were with regular patients that had returned to their northern homes. COVID happened, everyone here went home and shut their doors. Telemedicine immediately became successful. Now that the number of COVID cases has gone down, 99 percent of patients are asking for office visits again.”
A patient’s initial and annual visit must be done in the doctor’s office. To be entirely secure, video visits are scheduled and take place via a doctor’s secure electronic medical reporting (EMR) system in order to be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA). This federal law includes the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient's consent or knowledge.
Harris has never been busier. “During early summer, I did a couple video calls a day. After July, patients began wanting office visits again. For several years, regular patients that went north for the summer months were good with a phone call. “My EMR is totally encrypted and HIPPA-compliant. I have a great setup in the office, with a back light behind my computer screen. I also use a second computer,” advises Harris, who enjoys seeing a patient in their own home, which she notes is a rarity for any practitioner today.
Post believes telemedicine is good for an underserved population. She also believes that there are benefits to practitioners that may no longer need a large office space and big staff. The challenges she names are patient confidence in using a computer and some long-established practitioners that aren’t comfortable with technology and rely on their staff. “I’ve been doing phone consultations for some time, and notice that my patients are more relaxed in their own home. Before an appointment, I ask them to check their weight and go to a local pharmacy to get their blood pressure reading. Some patients buy their own blood pressure cup.”
In preparation for the permanency of telemedicine, Post purchased a bigger screen for her computer. “I have two other screens that I use to look things up. I’m ready,” she says..
Roberts, Harris and Post all agree that telemedicine may be the future of medicine. Due to sheltering in place, the zoom video conferencing platform experienced soaring usage, with 200 million daily meeting participants on average since the beginning of 2020 compared to the average of 10 participants in December 2019. In other words, video conferencing technology and even virtual friend visits will be part of the new normal.
Dr. Carol Roberts
Naples Center for Functional Medicine, 800 Goodlette Rd. N., Ste. 270, Naples. 239-649-7400, NaplesCFM.com See ad, page 47.
Naples Center for Functional Medicine
Carol L. Roberts, M.D. has practiced functional/integrative/holistic medicine for 25 years. She provides patients with testing to uncover causes of chronic illness, guidance in resolving ... Read More »
D-Signed Nutrition, Bonita Bay Executive Center, 3531 Bonita Bay Blvd., Ste. 300, Bonita Springs. 239-676-5249. D-SignedNutrition.com. See ad, page 31.
D-Signed Nutrition, LLC - 3531 Bonita Bay Blvd, Ste 300, Bonita Springs, FL
Bonita Bay Executive CenterMedical Nutrition Therapy and health coaching that personalizes your program to restore health and wellness. Improve digestion, elimination, brain health, immun... Read More »
Wellbridges, 9200 Bonita Beach Rd., Ste. 213, Bonita Springs. 239-231-8354, Wellbridges.com. See ad, page 39.
WELLBRIDGES, INC - 9200 Bonita Beach Rd, Ste 113, Bonita Beach, FL
Comprehensive, fully integrated health care individualized for adults and children. Chronic fatigue, male and female hormone imbalance. Digestive disorders, women's health care, autism, A... Read More »