Published on May 26, 2020
St. James resident John “Keith” Livingstone wanted to discuss a medication adjustment with his doctor, Rachelle Gorrell, DO, a family medicine physician and division chief of primary care with Phelps Health.
When he called about his appointment, he was told about Telehealth visits, which are a safe, secure and confidential way for patients to visit remotely with their care provider from a smartphone with audio and video capabilities.
“These Telehealth visits give patients the opportunity to check in with their providers from the comfort of their home,” said Erik AuBuchon, DO, an internal medicine physician and medical director of health informatics at Phelps Health.
Livingstone used the Healow app and was able to have a virtual appointment with Dr. Gorrell instead of going to the clinic in person. A link to patients’ appointments can be sent via a text message or email.
“It worked great,” Livingstone said. “I felt just as comfortable at home as I did in her [Dr. Gorrell’s] office. Once I got connected, it was flawless. It was just like being there.”
In many cases, the quality of care during Telehealth visits is the same as face-to-face interactions, according to Dr. AuBuchon. Providers are able to evaluate their patients using the cameras on smartphones or computers to look at the eyes, throat or skin of their patients.
Livingstone described his Telehealth visit experience as similar to an in-person visit, with one difference being that he took his own blood pressure, temperature and pulse instead of a nurse measuring those vitals. Since not everybody has their own devices at home, patients taking their own vitals during Telehealth visits is optional.
Telehealth visits can be used for a variety of reasons. “They are very useful in chronic health maintenance, preventive care and counseling appointments when discussion is a big part of the visit,” Dr. AuBuchon said. Additionally, Telehealth visits sometimes may be used for follow-up care after a surgery or procedure.
Margaret Roberts, another patient who normally sees her care team at the Phelps Health Medical Group–St. James location, said she was able to see her provider using the FaceTime app.
“I spoke with the doctor, and it felt personal,” Roberts said. “It was faster (than an in-person appointment), and it definitely seemed safer than sitting in a waiting room, regardless of the COVID-19 situation.”
Telehealth visits allow patients more flexibility in being able to see their provider. With Telehealth visits, patients do not have to travel to and from their doctor’s office, and they can experience fewer disruptions to their schedules.
Roberts said when she is sick, she does not feel like going out or driving. “It was nice, almost like a house call,” she said of Telehealth visits. “I’d definitely recommend them.”
Livingstone agreed, adding, “My experience was top-notch. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
A majority of Phelps Health providers offer Telehealth visits, and Dr. Gorrell said she encourages patients to talk to their provider’s office about Telehealth visits if they feel like they need to see their provider and do not want to wait. If patient’s appointments can be done through a Telehealth visit, they will receive instructions on how to participate.
For patients who would like an in-person appointment, Phelps Health is open, safe and ready to serve the community. Patients who come to Phelps Health facilities will be asked to follow certain safety guidelines, such as wearing a mask, practicing hand hygiene and social distancing, and being screened for fever or respiratory symptoms upon entry.