Linda Nealon’s masks
Office visits are what we call them. Insurance companies refer to them as “patient encounters”. These are the same people who changed me from a “physician” to a “provider”. I prefer visit. It’s much more descriptive of what is going on. The casual ebb and flow of the exchange of information. On March 16th we closed the office to all routine visits. Since then we have only seen patients with urgent needs in the office. The physician wears a mask. The patient wears a mask and we sit at opposite ends of the exam room and talk after which there is an exam. It’s not as easy to express yourself wearing a mask. That seems obvious. I find myself using my eyes and hands more. At one point during one of these visits I thought to myself, “I’ve become Italian”, as I caught myself gesticulating. My children think my eyes or rather my eyebrows are expressive. I don’t know what they are talking about.
Shortly thereafter we started doing telemedicine visits. How very different! The patient sits at home surrounded by objects that they consider comforting and significant and we visit. It’s like making a house call, something most physicians outside of practices like ours have never done. Patients are much more relaxed because they are on familiar turf. All that’s necessary is a smart phone or a computer with a webcam.
This virus has caused many changes. We will adapt and change as necessary in response. That’s what doctors do. For the immediate future, we will minimize patients time in the office by combining telemedicine visits followed by brief office appointments for what can’t be done remotely: exams, blood draws, blood pressure checks and immunizations. Once the virus is contained, we may decide to continue this practice. It may have forced us to change to something that will be better for patients and doctors in the long run.