ATLANTA — ATLANTA – Doctor’s offices are reopening, but the coronavirus may have forever changed the way we visit our favorite physician.
In the 1930s, it was not uncommon for a visit with the doctor to take place in a patient’s home. A practice that faded over time is making a virtual comeback thanks to the coronavirus.
For years, physicians have made “virtual” house calls through phone apps and video chats. The majority of patients, however, have been reluctant to try telemedicine.
That’s changing. Here’s why.
Social distancing has forced many people to try a virtual visit with the doctor.
Dr. Toyosi Okurounmu of United Healthcare believes it will have a lasting impact.
“This has made all of us rethink what we are able to do,” says Dr. Okurounmu.
In a survey prior to the coronavirus, 40% of United Healthcare’s patients said they were willing to try a virtual visit with the doctor, but few followed through.
“40% were interested but really 10% were actually using it,” says Okurounmu. “With the outbreak, those numbers are shifting significantly.”
It’s not for emergencies.
“It’s for discussing test results or reviewing procedures,” says 11Alive Medical Correspondent Dr. Sujatha Reddy. “I don’t think it’s going to replace a majority of the visits that we do. As we all get more comfortable with the idea of telemedicine, I do think we’ll see it expand.”
The government recently made changes that allow all Medicare patients to use telemedicine.
“You don’t have to take time off work, you don’t have to sit in a doctor’s office,” says Okurounmu. “This is just a guess, at least 40-50% will be at least willing to try this.”
As technology improves, doctors believe more and more patients will be willing to try the virtual house call.