Local clinics turn to telemedicine for everyday appointments

Local clinics are embracing telemedicine as a way to help patients with everyday medical concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.

Posted: Apr 2, 2020 6:22 PM
Updated: Apr 2, 2020 7:01 PM

EUGENE, Ore.-- Local clinics are embracing telemedicine as a way to help patients with everyday medical concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.

Springfield OB-GYN clinic Women's Care is one of the many clinics that quickly put a telemedicine plan in place in the weeks following Gov. Kate Brown's social distancing guidelines and mandate eliminating non-emergency medical visits.

Dr. Brooke Kyle believes patients with non-urgent appointments will find telemedicine to be much like a regular check-up. In the system they have implemented, patients will receive a text message with a link to a video chat and are connected to medical assistants who will update their medical history before moving to a video chat with doctors for an exam.

"I've been practicing for almost 20 years now and I felt like it was my new first day," said Kyle. "I was able to see patients in a new way that I haven't been able to see patients before. So it was really great, and you really feel that you have that one-on-one care."

She said that gynecologic and mental health appointments are easily transitioned online, while obstetric appointments can prove more complicated.

"We can assess any skin lesion or incision or things like that, but abdominal pain is something we see people for all the time, and that's been a bit trickier," said Kyle. "One of the things I've done to see if I need to bring the patient in to see in the office is just have them touch."

South Hilyard Clinic in Eugene implemented a similar telemedicine system two days after Brown's mandate. 

Primary care physician Brittany Alloway agrees that most symptoms can be examined over the camera. 

"I worried about that part of it, but surprisingly it has been easier than I thought. Patients are very in tune with their bodies and their health and really have a good idea of what's going on before they ever see us," she said. 

Alloway said the largest challenge so far has been educating patients about the technology and making sure they are comfortable with the change.

Telemedicine is a welcome innovation at Gastroenterology Consultants, where leaders say nearly 65% of their business came from elective procedures.

"We decided we needed to move to telemedicine at that point, for one, to help with that piece of our business being gone, but also our patients because we noticed patients getting a little nervous to come into our office," said CEO Angela Wilson.

According to the Oregon Department of Financial Regulation, under state law, most comprehensive health insurance plans are required to cover in-network telehealth service.

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