Thursday, May 13, 2021


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Prairie Doc Perspectives: Delivering health care to the patient


In the old days, country doctors often cared for folks by coming to the patient’s homes. These house calls brought great relief to people and families that needed medical attention. 

Nowadays, we are becoming familiar with telemedicine, or health care services provided electronically via the Internet. In rural settings, telemedicine helps provide specialty care to patients without the travel required for in-person visits. Access to medical care via telemedicine can greatly reduce costs and wait times for those in need. And, during the pandemic we saw how telemedicine grew tremendously, regardless of location.

Some aspects of telemedicine are almost like being together in person. For instance, according to Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Bernard Lown, in about 75 percent of patient encounters, listening to the patient describe symptoms and concerns allows doctors to obtain sufficient information to make the diagnosis before performing a physical examination and tests. 

Experience has shown that listening and diagnosis can occur via telemedicine, but can empathy occur to the point of the patient feeling deeply cared for? Caring is defined as feeling or showing concern for or kindness to others. I feel caring for one another is one of the most important aspects of our life here on Mother Earth. 

There has been significant research about the telemedicine patient experience. In a 2020 landmark study called the Press Ganey Report on Telehealth more than 3.5 million surveys about telemedicine were sent out in the United States and the results were supportive of this new technology.  

Overall, patients considered the telehealth experience a positive. Patients also felt very cared for in their telehealth visit and they were more likely to refer their friends to a doctor who provided choice between an in-person visit or a telehealth visit. What was also interesting is that it did not matter the age of the patient. Millennials and Boomers alike gave similar positive ratings to doctors and health care facilities that provided them the option of telehealth. 

Like I tell my fellow physicians and health care providers, whether in private or academic practice, or in training, we are here to serve the public. I believe telehealth is here to stay because the public wants it. Offering both a quality telehealth network visit and the more traditional in-person visits gives patients the choice with regards to which is best for them. It also demonstrates that providers and health systems are listening to the patient. 

Vance Thompson, M.D., an ophthalmologist surgeon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a contributing Prairie Doc® columnist. He will guest host On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show streaming on Facebook and broadcast on SDPB this Thursday at 7 p.m. central. For free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc® library, visit www.prairiedoc.org and follow Prairie Doc® on Facebook.

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