COVID-19 Gives Telemedicine A Virtual Boost

Doctors are making house calls again — but this time, it’s the 21st century version of the visit. Whether it’s used to monitor sleep patterns or…

Doctors are making house calls again — but this time, it’s the 21st century version of the visit.

Whether it’s used to monitor sleep patterns or for general checkups, telemedicine may be the future of health care. When the pandemic hit, staff at the Sound aSleep Sleep Diagnostic Lab reevaluated everything, according to lab employee and sleep physician Dr. Vishal Saini.

“We had to figure out, OK, how do we respond to this? We can’t really delay patient care because a lot of our patients have pretty severe sleep apnea,” he said.

The practice — which has locations in Saginaw, Midland, Bay City and Mount Pleasant — began doing at-home sleep tests, and even created its own YouTube channel for patient instruction. Saini can also monitor data from CPAP machines remotely and make adjustments on the spot.

“Now the patients are sitting next to their CPAP machines at home talking to us and they’re like, ‘Oh, doc, I feel like my pressure is too high,’” Saini said. “Even during that call I said, ‘OK, we’ll lower your pressures right now.’”

At Great Lakes Bay Health Centers, staff embraced remote technology by providing 21,000 telehealth visits from late March to early June, according to Assistant Clinical Services Director Nicole Fresorger.

“We’re getting the chance to prove that this really is a good thing and that this can help our patients,” she said.

While a screen can’t always replace an in-person examination, a major benefit is increased access.

“So our patient population … one of the social determinants they have is their lack of transportation,” she said.

Great Lakes Bay Health Centers also plans to provide iPhones for patient use.

From removing transportation barriers to remote equipment adjustments, telemedicine may have forged a permanent place in post-pandemic health care.

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