Follow-ups via televisit
Other patients receive follow-up care via televisit. “Their diabetes doesn’t go away because COVID is happening,” Ian Nelligan, MD, assistant professor of primary medicine and population health, said. “We need to continue their care and do that in the safest way we can.”
For many people — especially the elderly and those with conditions, such as heart disease, that make them vulnerable — that means keeping them away from crowds, he said.
Clinicians are also using televisits for patients quarantined in the hospital. They can talk with a patient remotely, avoiding transmission of the virus and forgoing the use of protective equipment, which can be saved for nurses and other direct caregivers who need to be in contact with patients.
Pageler said televisits are especially advantageous for psychologists and social workers. “What they’re doing is talking, so why risk the exposure and waste the personal protective equipment?” she said.
Some health care providers are seeing patients from their homes. They include physicians and staff who have been exposed to the virus and are under quarantine, those who are at high risk for complications due to their age or other conditions, and even those who need to care for young children. Allowing them to work from home helps ease the current high demand for office visits, Sharp said.
“We have people logging in from home and saying, ‘I’ll take the next patient,’” he said.
Stanford physicians say they expect the uptick in telemedicine to continue once the COVID-19 threat has run its course. It can save patients from driving long distances and prevent them from having to take a day off work or school.
“This pandemic — while very disruptive and challenging and scary — has provided an incentive to use telemedicine,” Pageler said. “Once people learn how to use it and see the value, I expect they’ll keep using it.”
Nelligan predicted that once additional remote technology — such as home blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes that link to medical records, continuous glucose monitors, and scopes patients can place in their ears and throats — becomes commonplace, even more visits will go online.
“The future is bright in this area of medicine,” he said. “COVID-19 was a shot in the arm. We’re going to see adoption happen much more quickly.”