So, how is telemedicine working for patients? According to a recent study, so far, so good.
According to The Power of the Patient Project: The National Library of Patient Rights and Advocacy, 94% of people who tried telehealth reported satisfaction with the ease and convenience.
Patients say they like the one-on-one encounter with their doctor while they sit in their own home. One of the greatest concerns of patients right now is still the thought of coming into a medical office and having to sit in a waiting room and then in an examination room where we know another patient was just seen. So, the virtual visit eases that concern.
What about the doctors? Since the pandemic began, doctors have been concerned that many patients are not reporting symptoms, and are putting off calling their doctors. Certainly, the major fear here is that the doctor will tell the patient to go the emergency room, something that patients express a great fear about doing, if they can help it.
Therefore, telemedicine has allowed patients to reach out to their doctors with safety and for doctors to address the concerns of their patients.
What happens if the patient needs a test done? After being reassured by their doctors on the virtual visit, many patients have agreed to go to the labs to have blood drawn or to imaging centers, trusting that these facilities have taken every precaution to guarantee the safety of the patient.
In terms of scheduling virtual visits, many patients have discovered that some of their doctors, especially specialists, are only scheduling virtual appointments, but their offices are making these appointments available within a reasonable time.
For the doctor, this allows more patients to be seen in a given hour than were seen in the office. A McKinsey & Co. report estimated that physicians are seeing between 50 and 175 times more patients via telehealth than they did prior to the pandemic.
But, patients are also asking: what happens if the doctor decides that I need to be physically examined? Patients who need to schedule an in-office appointment are often being told that the appointment cannot be scheduled for months, as opposed to weeks, as was the case before the pandemic. This is because of all of the many protocols and precautions that offices are taking to allow one patient at a time, so no one needs to wait in a crowded waiting room or needs to stay in the medical office any longer that is necessary. And so, many doctors are telling patients during the telemedicine visit that when the patient calls, they need to tell the scheduling staff that the doctor insisted on seeing the patient immediately. At the same time, the doctor notifies his front desk staff to expect a call from the patient. This allows the front desk scheduling staff to expedite booking the in-office visit.
So, telemedicine seems to be working for both the patient and the doctor. Both agree that it is different and takes some getting used to. As one pediatrician shared, “I am learning to listen for when it is my turn to speak, to diagnose rashes on a phone screen, to identify emotions from words and tone as much as from facial expressions, but if it lets me see more patients a day, and keeps them calm, then I agree, telemedicine is here to stay”.