An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
IF YOU’VE HAD TO TALK to your family doctor or nurse practitioner in the past year, chances are you’ve been doing it by phone rather than with the usual office visit.
COVID-19 has drastically reduced in-person medicine as doctors and NPs avoid direct contact with patients whenever possible. Doctor’s and clinic offices are no longer crowded with people waiting for their appointments.
Instead, the healthcare giver phones the patient at an agreed-upon time to discuss whatever health issue has arisen. Frankly, it’s a great system.
Mainly, it saves a whole lot of time that would normally be spent driving between home and the medical office or clinic, then waiting impatiently as the MD or NP inevitably runs at least a half hour late.
It also reduces the stress that usually accompanies an in-person appointment and that creates those false blood-pressure readings during the visit.
The inability to do those routine checks is, obviously, a limitation on phone-call medicine but, for the vast majority of situations, a description of symptoms during a leisurely call suffices. The healthcare giver can then direct the patient to the appropriate specialist or issue a requisition for testing, and even prescribe or renew certain medications.
If needed, the phone call is followed up with an office visit but in my own experience it’s usually not required.
My impression is that doctors and NPs are able to spend considerably more time with patients during phone calls than they’re able to handle in the office. It’s also interesting to note that many of them work at least partly from home themselves.
The bottom line, in my view, is better health care at a lower price. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. issurveying patients on their opinions of this new type of health care.
It seems likely that virtual appointments will continue to be common even after the pandemic is over.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.