ST. LOUIS – The coronavirus has been like rocket fuel in boosting the number of virtual doctor visits. In the last five weeks, Washington University Medical School doctors have conducted 30,000 telemedicine visits, meeting patients on a computer or a phone.
“It’s a way for us to reach our patients when they don’t want to come in under these shelter in place orders and there’s a lot of anxiety about COVID-19,” said Dr. Sam Bhayani, chief medical officer of Washington University physicians.
Dr. Bhayani visited cancer patient Jennifer Fedak and her family Thursday afternoon via the video conferencing app Zoom.
“I definitely feel safe not having to sit in a waiting room with other people not knowing what they have,” Fedak said.
And she said she doesn’t have to fight traffic.
Before the coronavirus, most Wash U. doctor’s visits were held in-person. Only one percent were via telemedicine; that number has zoomed to 50 percent.
The feds loosened the rules about telemedicine when COVID-19 hit.
“It’s not for everybody. Sometimes you have to examine the patient and lay your hands on them, but in many cases, you can have a very valuable medical interaction with the patient,” Bhayani said.
People will still have to come to medical buildings for things like CAT scans, MRIs, and blood tests.
“I think it’s here to stay for the convenience and the value it adds,” Bhayani said. “I think it’s going to be here long after coronavirus. I think it’s here to stay.”