I share the ACR’s COVID-19 Guidance with patients to improve adherence to immunosuppressants and build confidence in our response as a rheumatology community.
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Explore This IssueJanuary 2021
Q: How are patients currently feeling about telemedicine and in-person appointments?
Dr. Smith: Like many other practices, we saw a surge of telemedicine visits in April and May. Prior to the pandemic, we conducted no telemedicine visits. In April, [telemedicine appointments] increased to approximately one-third of our encounters.
Now, we still have patients desiring telemedicine appointments mainly due to concern of exposure to the virus in healthcare facilities and the community. They feel connected to their physician, even through virtual visits, and feel we are acknowledging their concerns about exposure to the virus and desires for continued healthcare access.
Many patients who are on stable doses of medications and have minimal disease activity prefer telemedicine visits. But many patients prefer in-person appointments because they desire a face-to-face discussion and a complete physical examination. A positive note from the pandemic is the expanding visit options offered to patients.
TR: What are your current plans for continuing or ending telemedicine services?
Dr. Smith: If reimbursement continues for telemedicine, I see it being a valuable tool for physicians and patients. I would like to continue to offer telemedicine services even after the pandemic, because I believe it improves show rates for those with long travel times and for those who have jobs with changing schedules. It also allows patients to be seen when they may have fevers, family emergencies or other conflicts.
New patients should be evaluated in person, because the lack of a formal physical exam may make diagnosis and long-term management challenging. So that component will remain, even if telemedicine stays, in my clinic. I plan to continue to offer telemedicine for all established patients.
TR: What are you looking forward to doing after the pandemic is over?
Dr. Smith: I’m personally looking forward to removing my mask in public and during office visits, recapturing the face-to-face interactions and expressions that make up a great deal of our communication.
I’m also looking forward to being able to travel with my family to various parts of the U.S.
Mary Choy, PharmD, BCGP, FASHP, is a medical writer and editor living in New York City. Dr. Choy is director of pharmacy practice at the New York State Council of Health-System Pharmacists. She is also the author of Healthcare Heroes: The Medical Careers Guide.