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Telemedicine visits with your doctor became a necessity during COVID-19 — and they’re here to stay.

In a three-part series, we’ll highlight some of the positive changes that have resulted from the ways we’ve adapted to life during a pandemic. Here, we’ll explore how quarantine and social distancing accelerated the use of telemedicine visits — a trend that’s here to stay, according to Dr. Kenric Maynor, chair of the Geisinger Medicine Institute.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Geisinger was expanding telemedicine visits to make healthcare easier for you. As communities locked down to prevent the spread of the virus, we accelerated our efforts to train providers to effectively evaluate and treat people over the phone or via video chat on their smartphones, home computers and tablets.

Telehealth visits quickly proved successful, and while Geisinger is carefully reopening for in-person visits, remote appointments are here to stay.

“What was once an experiment has become an important tool in how we care for people now — and how we’ll care for them in the future,” says Dr. Maynor.

“We’ve learned that telehealth can be effective not just for routine checkups, but for specialty care, too.”

Telemedicine in everyday and specialty care

Not surprisingly, telemedicine lends itself to wellness checkups, allowing patients and their primary care doctors to talk just like they would in the clinic.

“Patients and their doctors can discuss medical histories, general health concerns and whether there have been any noteworthy changes in the patient’s health,” Dr. Maynor says. “A telemedicine visit can also let the doctor know if a patient needs to be evaluated in person.”

Perhaps more surprisingly, telemedicine has also proven effective for specialty care and the management of chronic conditions — especially those that make travel difficult for people. Geisinger now offers telemedicine visits for dozens of specialties, ranging from fertility care and orthopaedics to endocrinology and heart care.

Using cardiac care as an example, telemedicine allows the doctor to asses cardiovascular risks through a discussion of the patient’s diet, weight, exercise routines and family history. The physician and patient can also develop exercise and smoking cessation plans. And the doctor can evaluate some symptoms, like palpitations.

“Of course, some visits have to be conducted in person,” Dr. Maynor says. “But with many specialties, we can accomplish a lot during a virtual visit.”

He adds that thanks to the widespread adoption of videoconferencing, especially during the pandemic, people of all ages are increasingly comfortable with video chats.

“Telemedicine isn’t just for young people,” he says. “Patients 60 and older are embracing technology to receive their care from the comfort and safety of their homes. They can do that knowing that their health information is confidential and secure, just like with an office visit.”

Dr. Maynor adds, “Telemedicine can’t always replace face-to-face care. But, when used as part of a comprehensive wellness plan, it has the potential to benefit all of us. It’s definitely a tool that we expanded out of necessity, but we’re quickly realizing its incredible value, especially for patients who have difficulty traveling to a clinic for care.”

Next steps:
Read more positive perspectives: Redefining self-care and community
Still curious about telemedicine? Learn more.

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COVID-19 updates: Visit Geisinger's Coronavirus Resource Center for the latest information and helpful resources.

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