Telehealth use becomes more popular amid coronavirus pandemic
If you need to visit doctor during the coronavirus pandemic, chances are you may be doing it online. That’s because many physicians are now utilizing telehealth and telemedicine options, thanks to recent changes in Congress.
WASHINGTON – If you need to visit doctor during the coronavirus pandemic, chances are you may be doing it online. That’s because many physicians are now utilizing telehealth and telemedicine options, thanks to recent changes in Congress.
Jennifer Bowers is now going to the doctor on her computer. Bowers, 49, is an autoimmune patient who has battled melanoma. So, this has become the safest way for the Maryland resident to receive treatment during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve kind of been on lockdown since January,” Bowers said.
Dr. Janet Lin is Jennifer’s dermatologist. Lin is among a growing number of physicians and specialists using telehealth apps like “Talk With Your Doc.” Patients who can’t leave their home because of stay-at-home orders or other preexisting health conditions, which puts them at higher risk to the coronavirus, are now visiting virtually.
“I’m a dermatologist, so a picture is worth a thousand words,” Lin said. “So, if I have a photo ahead of time, I can review it with them. That gives me a much better idea of what I’m treating.”
Congress cut much of the red tape surrounding telehealth in the “CARES” Act stimulus package passed last month. Among the changes: Medicare will pay physicians for telehealth services at the same rate as in-office visits for all diagnoses, according to the American Medical Association; and doctors can now prescribe controlled substances – like opioids – on video conference in certain states, the AMA said.
In rural America, the growth in telehealth technology has become a lifesaver for both the patient and the practice. More than 120 rural hospitals have closed in the last decade, according to the National Rural Health Association. Those remaining heavily rely on the revenue generated by check-ups and elective surgeries that are now postponed or canceled because of COVID-19.
“So, it keeps the lifeline at that hospital, especially when you’re the only hospital within 100 or 200 miles,” said Robin Wiener, president of Get Real Health, a wholly owned subsidiary of CPSI, which developed Talk With Your Doc. “You need to make sure that hospital stays afloat.”
Bowers is an oncology nurse herself. She is working from home now, and thankful she can visit her doctor from home, as well.
“Telehealth is really my lifeline right now,” Bowers said. “It makes me feel much safer.”