HISTalk Practice editor Jennifer Dennard recently interviewed three physicians with Lee Health Physicians Group to assess the providers’ perceptions on telemedicine use during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Lee Health recently rolled out virtual visits to the health system’s ambulatory provider network to continue care delivery as quarantine and social distancing efforts continue.
Dr. Midney-Martinez, Dr. Andre Anderson and Dr. Jose Orellana offered feedback on:
- How telemedicine has been received by patients
- How the clinicians foresee using telemedicine once the pandemic is over
- Words of advice to other physicians looking to implement telehealth
Patients have overwhelmingly embraced the virtual visit offering, which is delivered via integration through Lee Health’s Epic MyChart patient portal. Within one-week virtual visits soared to 1,000 sessions per day, with capacity supporting 200 concurrent calls and climbing.
“The majority of the patients that have used our telemedicine interface have shared that they enjoy it. It gives them the opportunity to continue receiving quality medical care without leaving the comfort of their home. Caregility’s interface is very simplified and easy to use for any age group,” said Anderson.
Midney-Martinez’s patients expressed some initial hesitation regarding telehealth, but she found that most patients came away from the experience pleased. “Once they connected with me, they were very happy, excited, and many told me they wished we could do it like this ‘all the time,’” said Midney-Martinez. She also praised the technology’s potential to keep patients out of the hospital and urgent care, when appropriate.
Orellana pointed to the benefits that the platform offered elderly patients. “Patients feel personally empowered because they do not need a family member to take them to the provider’s office (and miss a day from work) or the need of transportation, therefore cutting on their expenses, especially if they live on a fixed income,” said Orellana.
Each of the physicians believe in the long-term potential of telemedicine. “I think it will be hard for insurance companies to discontinue providing payment for telemedicine visits,” said Anderson. “The convenience factor is a big upsell for the patients.” Orellana sees virtual care as providing an edge to the healthcare institution in a competitive landscape.
The clinicians emphasize that telemedicine is an augmentation of traditional care delivery rather than a replacement. Physical exams will continue to be an integral part of patient engagement. They also encourage due diligence in ensuring HIPAA compliance and supporting patient education around the offering.
“There is a learning curve with this technology and patients need time and education,” said Orellana. “Also, telemedicine may lead to a breakdown in care continuity if patients access a random doctor who does not know the patient and the patient’s medical history. The medical institution must provide the tools to providers to easily connect with their own patients.”
You can read the full HIStalk Practice interview here:
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