Telemedicine growing as in-person doctor visits shrink in Coronavirus crisis

Coronavirus

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — The next time you see your doctor it may be over video conference. Several medical providers are moving their practices online in the pandemic to keep seeing patients, and in some cases, keep the doors open at all.

My two-year-old daughter Destiny has Down Syndrome and feeding challenges. We live in Baldwin County. One of her therapists is in Pensacola. People are being discouraged from traveling and instead of canceling a recent therapy session, we did it online. Destiny still gets treatment and Dr. Neina can still work with patients and keep the lights on.

“Without the ability to do telemedicine small practices like Tubes2tables would go under, in terms of we wouldn’t make it,” said Dr. Neina Ferguson with Tubes2Tables in Pensacola. One bonus of telemedicine is the ability to do therapies from home, giving children in particular added comfort and parents the ability to problem solve in the place they spend the most time in.

“Because I often tell families it’s not coming to see us one or two or three times a week that’s going to make a difference for your child, it’s what you do every day,” said Dr. Ferguson. The downside to therapy-via-video chat can be technical issues. I had to ask the therapist to repeat her instructions a few times because I couldn’t hear her at certain moments. Having siblings in the home can also be a distraction when you’re trying to focus on one child. Overall, I found the experience to be beneficial and nearly as good as an in-person visit. Several miles away in Mobile, the Center for Dermatology also adopts social distancing through digital appointments.

“That helps them from being exposed to someone else or if we do need to see those patients we can schedule them selectively and not have as many patients in our waiting room,” said Dr. Amy Morris with the Center for Dermatology in Mobile. Morris says only half as many patients are coming in because of the pandemic, and telemedicine is something patients are exploring for the first time. They are also feeling the financial pinch of the crisis.

“It is a difficult time, and we have had to make difficult decisions and implement innovative ideas to get us through the next three months,” said Dr. Morris in a follow-up text message.

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*Maps provided by Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi Departments of Public Health

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