Virtual visits designed to mitigate the spread of the disease, ease concerns of going to the doctor's office
With the number of COVID-19 cases increasing in the state, Steward Medical Group, a part of the Steward Health Care Family, is reminding patients that to help mitigate the spread of the virus and enhance their safety, physician practices continue to offer telehealth virtual care so patients can receive the care they need without having to go to the doctor’s office.
The telehealth video visits – conducted via smartphone, or a desktop or laptop equipped with a web camera – are well suited for patients who may have flu-like symptoms and want to speak with a physician; or they may be for patients experiencing other routine ailments but do not want to travel to the office for fear of a potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Telehealth appointments are available for primary care and internal medicine, as well as a broad range of specialized care including cardiology, orthopedics, and women’s health and especially for patients who are high-risk for contracting the coronavirus.
“Given the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, Steward Medical Group continues to give patients an alternative to coming to the doctor’s office to receive their care,” said Michael Callum, MD, FACS, president of Steward Medical Group. “Telehealth visits will provide our patients the care they need as well as mitigate the spread of COVID-19 virus by letting patients see our doctors from the comfort and security of their own home.”
Richard Dinsdale, MD, a family medicine specialist at Desert Grove Family Medical in Mesa, has been using telehealth for the past several months, even conducting visits from his home on weekends to care for patients.
“It’s quick and patients love it,” said Dinsdale. “I hope if something good comes out of the COVID-19 crisis it’s a change in how we do business.”
Telehealth has been a wonderful alternative for delivering care, especially for patient visits where he does not necessarily need to touch the patient in order to render care or confirm a diagnosis. It has also been helpful in care of patients with diabetes, and for patients who need medication renewals, and those who have questions about chronic medication usage said Dinsdale.
“It’s changing how we are doing business, address a patient’s needs in a patients’ environment instead of our own,” said Dinsdale.
And it’s convenient. Over a smartphone or laptop, he has been able to “see” patients wherever they are, including some who have conducted their visits from the supermarket aisle, he said. He foresees telehealth “revolutionizing” diabetes care and feels it will also make a difference for patients with obesity where they can connect with their caregivers several times a week to help them stay on their prescribed nutrition and exercise plans.
While practices continue to offer telehealth, many are also seeing patients in the office. Steward Medical Group practices are following state and Centers for Disease Control guidelines to keep safety as the top priority for patients, staff, and providers.
Steward Medical Group practices have implemented the following:
- Safe screening practices for all patients for COVID-19 prior to in-person office visits
- Ready to quickly reschedule previously postponed appointments and procedures
- Safe enhanced cleaning and personal protection procedures
- Ready with safe social distancing at check-in, checkout and in reception areas
- Ready to enhance safety by requiring surgical masks be worn by patients, staff, and providers while at an office visit
Steward is also urging patients who experience a medical issue to not delay care. Steward’s experience emergency providers at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital, Florence Hospital and Mountain Vista Medical Center are ready to care for patients 24/7.