LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - It could be argued that no other place encourages physical distancing like a doctor’s office. And now because of current technology, a better job of social distancing can be done.
It is the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center that makes that possible. Although it’s not new for the HSC, it’s being used more often.
It is through telemedicine and the main advantage is space.
Sometimes, there is no way of keeping patients and the general public a safe distance apart. And it’s especially beneficial in times of a pandemic.
“We were able to shift other care to telemedicine very quickly,” Dr. Sarah Wakefield, chair and assistant professor in the HSC’s department of psychiatry, said.
Seeing patients virtually and not in person presented a challenge at first. Mainly, in transitioning its prior uses to everyday doctor visits.
The biggest hurdle was figuring out how to check people in through the phone or computer screen.
“How to notify them, how long they’re waiting,” Wakefield said, “figuring out how to put them in a waiting room.”
The next step was getting patients comfortable with technology like Zoom. So the patients were given three choices: go into the doctor’s office, do the appointment through a phone call or meet via Zoom.
“What we learned is that we would get on the telephone together with the patient and say, ‘hey we have a platform where we can actually see you and you can actually see us and that’s what we would prefer if we could do that,’” Wakefield said.
This also provided some cost-saving options, mainly for those in rural areas.
Dr. Ariel Santos, director of the HSC telemedicine program, surgeon and professor, said it is also a time-saver for patients.
“And you don’t have to come out of your home without the hassle of parking and exposure to possible infectious agents,” Santos said.
There are still times when a patient has to come into the office. But if a telemedicine consultation works best, it will be offered.
There is a need to find a solution for patients who may have connectivity issues. But for the most part, both doctors say patients who use data from their wireless carriers have been able to see their physicians without many problems.
“I actually encourage the public to use virtual care in a public setting of course, to seek proper health care,” Santos said.