Doctors begin offering telemedicine for patients during COVID-19 pandemic

JOPLIN, Mo. – Joplin resident Linda Dunn, like many, has been staying home as much as possible to avoid the coronavirus.

And that includes when it comes to health care.

“I’m one of those people who don’t want to get out and go anywhere, so to me this was priceless,” says Dunn.

That priceless thing that she’s talking about is telemedicine.

“If’ it’s cold and flu season and you’ve got people coughing and sneezing, it just makes you feel more comfortable,” says Dunn.

“It’s just like any kind of formal visit. We talk to the patient, we have an interview with them, take a health history, find out what the problem is,” says Aaron Garcia, a nurse practitioner at Advanced Family Medicine.

Advanced Family Medicine has been offering the service since Monday (March 23rd), and is seeing success so far.

It is covered by insurance like any other visit — and the clinic is taking new patients.

“This is a great avenue for us to basically change the normality of things and actually be available for those people so that we can continue to give them the best care that we can,” says Garcia.

But, since you aren’t physically there in person it would be kind of hard to do something like a physical exam. So, it’s important to remember the service does have some limitations.

“We’re not able to do an actual examination, and we’re not able to get their vital signs unless they have a blood pressure cuff or something like that at their house,” says Garcia. “Other than that, we are still able to see them fully and we can still take care of them.”

Mercy is also offering telemedicine through all of the clinics and hospitals in the health system.

“So far it’s been working fairly well. The only hickups really have been getting people started up technologically,” says Tracy Godfrey.

Godfrey says the main reason they haven’t offered the service in the past is because the visits have not always been covered by insurance. A fact that’s still true now.

“We just know that we need to take care of people. So, we will hope for the best on the billing side of it and the payment side of it, but, we’re gonna take care of patients first,” says Godfrey.

Either way, Dunn like the new “house call” so much, she hopes it stays for good.

“Oh my gosh, I hope they keep it. It was the greatest thing since canned soup,” says Dunn.

Access Family Care, Freeman, and the Free Market Physician Clinic in Joplin are also offering telemedicine.