Good Connections

Quick, convenient, and on the rise in popularity are teleheath appointments.

With telehealth on the rise, patients are phoning it in more than ever.

Getting to doctor appointments is a challenge for 76-year-old Rick Scott, who is in a wheelchair as he recovers from spine surgery. When his primary care physician, Dr. Mark Haggerty, suggested virtual visits, Scott quickly agreed. “Before that, it was physically very hard for me [to get to appointments],” says the Virginia Beach resident. By communicating with Haggerty via Zoom and taking many of his own measurements, “we found out he could get the information he needed about how I was doing, and it also saved me a lot of time and money,” says Scott, noting that medical transportation costs him anywhere from $140 to $250 per trip.

A growing number of patients are seeing their doctors virtually via their smartphone or computer. While Sentara has offered telehealth for a few years, services boomed following the start of the pandemic. “So, a dramatically different landscape from COVID to now,” says Haggerty, who in addition to his family medicine practice in Virginia Beach serves as Sentara’s associate medical director of virtual care. From January to mid-July of this year, Sentara’s doctors logged more than 190,000 telehealth visits. 

Virtual doctor visits can benefit those with mobility or transportation concerns, busy lifestyles, or who simply prefer the convenience. Along with “acute concerns that we don’t need a physical exam to treat—like sinus infections, urinary tract infections, coughs, and colds—we can manage a patient’s chronic conditions quite effectively with communication and a strategy,” says Haggerty. Patients can weigh themselves and take their blood pressure and pulse oximeter measurements at home. A home health nurse can draw blood for labs. 

Specialists can also take part. For instance, cardiologists can monitor pacemaker readings electronically. “A lot of this stuff is already remotely transmitted into our system,” says Haggerty.

While in-person appointments are still important, virtual visits provide another option. “In the office, we couldn’t do much because he was in so much pain,” recalls Haggerty, of his first visit with Scott. “I’ve managed him virtually pretty much ever since. He is so thankful that it really is reinforcing to me that there are some people who absolutely need this.” Sentara.com


This article originally appeared in our October 2020  issue.

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