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Telemedicine is 'just like talking to a friend on the phone'

Stay-at-home orders and an abundance of caution mean that many patients don’t want to visit clinics right now, and Community HealthCare System supports efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. But sometimes a visit shouldn’t be delayed, so CHCS is offering a new way for patients to connect with their providers.

Telemedicine allows patients to have an office visit with their provider using a phone, tablet, or computer. CHCS began offering telemedicine appointments the week of March 30. Dr. David Allen from the Holton Family Health Center said the experience so far has been “very positive.”

“It has been a surprisingly easy transition. People are very comfortable with the technology. It’s just like talking to a friend on the phone,” Dr. Allen said.

Dr. Allen has mainly seen patients for medication management appointments, and he said telemedicine is particularly promising for elderly patients for whom leaving the house is difficult.

Patients simply call their clinics to make an appointment, then clinic staff send instructions via email on how to access the appointment. Dr. Allen said technical issues have been few in number, and most have been related to connection speeds from rural areas.

“Overall, patients seem to find the visits very easy once they have overcome the intimidation of beginning to use the system,” Dr. Allen said.

CHCS is able to offer telemedicine because of a special regulatory waiver during the COVID-19 outbreak. Although CHCS is unsure how long the waiver will remain in effect, Dr. Allen said patients have already asked about maintaining the service. He likes it, too.

“I really enjoy having the ability to use the technology this way. It makes it easier for the patients. It’s just another tool to broaden the ways we are able to care for our patients,” Dr. Allen said.

Dr. Allen worked with a medical school mentor, Dr. Ace Allen, at the University of Kansas Medical Center, doing telemedicine research and writing articles for the journal Telemedicine Today. The technology has come a long way since then, and he’s looking forward to new capabilities.

“Other new technologies could be used to further our ability to provide remote care by providing blood pressure monitoring, remote telemetry monitoring to evaluate cardiac functions, and more,” he said. 

Visits are covered by KanCare, BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas, and Medicare. Patients can call their clinic to ask about coverage from other insurance carriers.


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