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Healthwatch 16: Turning to telemedicine

The pandemic has forced doctors to use high-tech methods to care for patients.

DANVILLE, Pa. — The concept of telehealth, or telemedicine, isn't new. It's been around in some form for years now. But the recent COVID-19 crisis has had many of us seeking help over our computers, and it has medical officials wondering if it will someday be considered the new way of doing "house calls."

We spoke with an endocrinologist at Geisinger Medical Center who treats patients with diabetes about the topic.

"Endocrinology has been a tough field to have enough providers for our patients. We have over 50,000 patients with Type 2 diabetes alone in the system, and four or five endocrinologists, so there's quite a lack of resources," said Dr. Brian Jameson. "Telemedicine has been around for 15 to 20 years, but it's easier now because we've gotten over many of the regulatory hurdles we've had in the past."

"We've been able to maintain functions while being socially distanced. We've been able to reach out. If they can see us, we can show them CAT scans, ultrasounds, things like that, So we can communicate things you wouldn't be able to with just a phone call, as in the past," Dr. Jameson said.

"I think this is going to change medicine. I think we're going to practice a bit differently than we do now. I think the days of 9 to 5 doctor's offices may go away! You'll see people who work, maybe evenings are better for them, or some are early risers."

Dr. Jameson also pointed out telemedicine has made for a more efficient patient schedule. He says there tend to be fewer no-shows and less back up in general.

He admits there are some things you can only see or do as a medical provider in person, but in general, he thinks that adding more telehealth appointments for those with chronic diseases like diabetes can only improve access to better medical care.

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