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Why choosing a virtual doctor's visit will save lives during coronavirus

The telehealth system provides a way to support social distancing, and live up to the all-important mantra of staying home to save lives.

WASHINGTON — One of the first instincts perhaps permanently altered by the cruel contagion of the coronavirus is the desire to visit a doctor, face-to-face, as soon as symptoms set in.

But what if a normal doctor’s visit caused incredible harm – infecting vulnerable patients in a waiting room, as well as the attending physician?

In the pandemic’s new era of great adaptation, scheduling a virtual visit to the doctor’s office may become the new normal, keeping doctors and patients at home, safer from infection.

"At this point, 82% of our encounters are now virtual," Dr. Dennis V. Truong, regional director of telemedicine at Kaiser Permanente, said. "In about two or three short weeks, we were able to flip the script and change the way we deliver care." 

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The telehealth system provides a way to support social distancing, and live up to the all-important mantra of staying home to save lives.

Truong described years of training to become an emergency physician, sometimes unable to track the health and recovery of patients once they left the E.R.

But with virtual visits, connections aren’t lost when the patients end their video calls.

"Telehealth right now allows me to text you, as a patient, on a secure text and say, 'hey, when you wake up tomorrow morning, tell me how you feel," Truong continued. "I can also schedule another video visit with me personally for tomorrow, so I can track your symptoms, and we stay connected." 

Truong began working with the Kaiser virtual system in 2013, a platform designed to serve pandemics and health crises as worst-case scenarios.

Kaiser members have their personal health charts at the teledoctor’s disposal, data that can often quickly determine if a coronavirus test is necessary.

"Oftentimes, we like to kid around and say, 'we know you better than you know yourself,'" Truong said. "So by the time we get on e-visit with a member, we know a lot about them already, and that informs us of our next steps."

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