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St. Joseph patients get treated quickly with telemedicine

November 16, 2018

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Dr. Jana Hill says she’s able to see more patients through telemedicine than traditional in-person appointment.

When you’re sick, getting to the doctor is often the best and fastest way to start feeling better. While doctors used to make house calls, now the newest trend in medicine lets the patient make the call. It’s called telemedicine, and it’s often cheaper than an office visit and just as effective.

Jackson Rockafellow was about 3 years old when the St. Joseph News-Press first met him in 2014 during a routine visit to the hospital for his severe allergies. It was a short drive for Jackson’s family to visit the hospital in St. Joseph, but it would have been a much longer visit had they had to drive to Kansas City where Jackson’s doctor practices medicine. For this particular visit, no one had to drive at all. The doctor stayed in Kansas City, and with the help of technology and a trained assistant in St. Joseph, the entire visit took place without the doctor and patient ever being in the same room.

“Because it does save time, it saves staff,” Hill explained. “There are some companies that provide completely free virtual house calls, so it’s a zero cost some employers provide ... that’s obviously a huge saving versus a $50 copay to come to urgent care when you can get the same care over the computer.”

Hill’s patients have the option to consult with her by phone or over video through a simple app available on computers and smartphones. She echoed the sentiment of Portney that the diagnosis and treatment simply don’t require an in-person visit for every case and that the overall outcome is identical.

“It’s still the same concept. You’re still listening to the patient and you’re still making a diagnosis based on what they’re telling you, which is most of medicine anyway. Most of what it is is what they’re telling you versus what you find on exams,” she said. “It’s not that different, you’re just doing it by phone or computer instead.”

Because Hill’s clinic is set up for just his type of consultation, she said wait times are minimal and the number of patients she can see in a day is increased.

“During cold and flu season, which will be starting any time now, they’re not coming into the lobby being exposed to other people who are ill and spreading it in the community because they can stay home and get the treatment they need,” Hill said.

The Wall Street Journal reported telemedicine can save patients up to $115 per visit, with potential savings of more than $20,000 per medical facility. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reported that since implementing telemedicine in 2016, 140 patient transfers have been avoided from senior care facilities. It touted the ability to treat 96 percent of patients from the facilities where they already were being housed and saving roughly $400,000 by doing so in the last year alone.

“I love it. I think there’s a lot of advantages to it. There’s a lot of time savings,” Hill said. “We’re seeing you much, much quicker. Those visits last on average from start to finish less than five minutes versus an average visit with patients in the clinic would be somewhere around 20.”

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Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, http://www.newspressnow.com

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