Doctors are making house calls again — but this time, it’s the 21st century version of the visit.
Forced into the forefront by COVID-19, telemedicine may continue to play a significant role in the future of health care.
Dr. LaKeeya Tucker of Alliance Obstetrics & Gynecology in Greater Lansing said her practice implemented virtual technology to stay connected to patients when the pandemic hit. Low-risk patients are best suited for telehealth, especially since patients can weigh themselves, monitor their own blood pressure and check their urine at home, she said.
“You sort of have to go based upon … what you see. Does the patient look sick, that sort of thing,” said Tucker.
There are some things that simply can’t be done virtually, like hands-on examinations and technical assessments such as monitoring fetal heart tones.
“You can’t see a high-risk patient via telemedicine,” Tucker said.
However, when it comes to mental health, telemedicine offers unique advantages, according to Tamera Lagalo, owner of Spring Forest Counseling and Wellness.
“They are at home. They are in their safe place. They are able to kind of relax a little bit more,” she said.
In the psychological arena, acute cases including suicidal ideation or if the client’s main issue is his or her home life may not translate well in telemedicine. Kids can also be a challenge to work with remotely, according to Lagalo.
“It’s hard to engage with children on the screen for 45 minutes to an hour,” she said.
In response, therapists created online games and shareable session packets, Lagalo added.
Both Lagalo and Tucker said adaptation is key, and they see telemedicine being a part of their lives for the foreseeable future.