Telehealth: a “spoonful of sugar” for patient care

Written by Jane Maiolo. Posted in Health and Beauty

A newer form of patient care is proving to be just what the doctor ordered—especially during a global pandemic. Perrysburg Family Physicians is among practices throughout the nation that have begun using the Medici app for telehealth.

According to Medici’s website, the app allows “doctors to cut costs, comply with regulations, and maintain daily operations while caring for patients.” It also assists patients who may feel pressure managing and paying for healthcare.

Dr. Catherine Carrigan spoke recently about the Medici app helping the practice to care for patients. She believes the app is useful but acknowledged, “you lose the intimacy of a one-on-one visit.” Additionally, while the program can interface with smartphones to check items such as a patient’s heart rate, it cannot look for something like thyroid nodules, which must be felt by the doctor during a physical exam. “There are some things we cannot duplicate over the internet,” she explained.

Still, the app provides a number of conveniences. For patients who can spend more than an hour on a visit, it can be a time saver. According to a 2015 study from the American Journal of Managed Care, patients spend an average of 121 minutes per doctor’s office visit, including on average 37 minutes traveling to an appointment.

In addition to the time factor, there is the out-of-pocket cost per visit, which averages $32. Monetary and time requirements aside, some patients are unable to visit due to work and family schedules or physical constraints.

Through telehealth, patients and doctors can connect virtually, eliminating the need for travel, increasing productivity and allowing for flexible working schedules. Mobile appointments are convenient and can take place almost anywhere with a secure connection. The app is particularly advantageous to those living in rural areas, providing easy access to time with doctors.

The app also allows medical professionals to better control their work hours. That includes the ability to see more patients in a day than in a traditional office visit. It also minimizes wasted time since virtual appointments are easier for patients to attend and reduce missed, cancelled, or late appointments due to traffic or other issues.

With the coronavirus not going away soon and the Ohio legislature relaxing regulations on office visits for patients on regular medications, Dr. Carrigan believes telehealth will be a great tool, especially for older patients. “It makes the most sense for this population as they are the highest risk,” she said. She also suspects younger people will appreciate the app because “they will love the convenience of doing this.”

Telemedicine also could prove valuable for patients dealing with mental-health issues during the pandemic. “It is pretty good for our psychologist who is conducting visits on a routine basis over the internet,” she said, adding that patients have the comfort of speaking to someone from their own home.

Dr. Carrigan encourages any patients struggling with isolation or other issues to call the office at 419-872-7600 to set up a telehealth visit.

Perrysburg Family Physicians’ office, 702 Commerce Drive, is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Due to COVID-19, they are limiting in-office visits to avoid congestion and limit exposure of vulnerable patients when possible.

A staff member of Welch Publishing Company for more than 21 years, Jane Maiolo is a reporter and photographer for several company publications. She has been editor of the Holland-Springfield Journal since 2003 when the newspaper was established.