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During this time of COVID-19, healthcare providers are taking extra precautions to keep their patients, staff and our community safe from the coronavirus. This includes intensive deep cleaning of equipment and surfaces, reducing seating in waiting rooms and wearing masks and other protective equipment.

Another way we’re reducing the risk of the virus is moving many of our patients to telemedicine, or remote, visits. Just like many companies have moved away from in-person to online meetings, Saint Alphonsus has also changed the way we’re seeing patients.

Using the latest advances in technology, I’m able to do many of the same things that I would do when seeing a patient in my clinic. I can conduct a mental status exam, observe tremors and see movement disorders.

And I’m not alone in using telemedicine as a neurologist. Our cardiology team can provide ongoing care to their patients, monitor their progress, and answer any questions. We have advanced telestroke capabilities, where we can evaluate and assist in the treatment of stroke patients via real-time video connections to over 10 Emergency Rooms in the region. Primary Care and Specialty Clinics are providing care through Telehealth.

Saint Alphonsus offers on demand urgent care, hospital-based consultations/rounding, and continuity visits in primary and specialty care via telehealth. This is type of virtual medicine I use. Connecting can be as simple as clicking on a link sent to your phone or email. The advantages of remote medical care extend beyond just the safety concerns around COVID-19. It’s great for patients in rural communities, where a trip to the doctor’s office may be a long journey and allows continuation of care even if in-person visits are not possible.

Another online service we offer is great for families and those who need to see a doctor for online urgent care. Our My E-Visit service allows patients to be seen by an urgent care provider without an appointment. By downloading the app or logging in on a computer, a patient can see one of our doctors without leaving home. It’s private and secure, and costs less than a visit to a clinic or to the Emergency Room for non-emergency care. It’s perfect for a variety of conditions, including allergies, pink eye, sinus problems, or other issues.

Cybersecurity is a priority for us, and all the platforms we use undergo a thorough security review to ensure privacy for our patients and providers.

The pandemic will run its course, and life will return to normal. But the utilization of telemedicine will continue to be one more way Saint Alphonsus can serve its patients in a time and location that’s convenient for them.

Dr. Jackie Whitesell, MD, is a neurologist with the Saint Alphonsus Medical Group in Boise.

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