As Telemedicine Became New Normal During Pandemic, In-person Visits Prove Necessary for Some

As telehealth has expanded during the pandemic, doctors found surprising benefits to connecting virtually – and in fields like cardiology, they learned that face-to-face visits are still essential
A woman using a cell phone to access Rush virtual care options.

About a year ago, everything stood still. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were told to stay home, and so many parts of ordinary routines went virtual. That is when Rush saw an increase in telemedicine services, shifted non-urgent clinic appointments and provided an alternative model, such as telephone or video visits, to provide care where possible.

Robert Jeffrey Snell, MD, a cardiologist at Rush University Medical Center, shared that many of his outpatients were willing to switch to virtual visits to keep their appointments when everything shut down. According to Dr. Snell, having some sort of check-in is better than nothing at all.

Though for cardiology telemedicine visits, there were some challenges. Not all patients had access to technology to do a video visit, so having telephone access was important to connect. When working with a cardiology patient virtually, Dr. Snell said you have to rely on the patient to accurately measure and record their current blood pressure, heart rate and weight at home.

You can have virtual visits for cardiology patients, but they eventually need to come in for blood work, EKGs and other lab work. This is another reason why Dr. Snell feels that seeing cardiology patients is better in person.

Despite the changes and challenges that have come up, Dr. Snell said some positives came from meeting virtually with patients. Not only could he have many different types of conversations that ordinarily may have never come up in visit at the office, but he also had a chance to see what patients’ living conditions were like. As their doctor, he said this something you usually don’t get to see, and he found it helpful.

Telemedicine may continue to be a popular option even when we move out of the pandemic, but for some specialties, a physical visit will remain in place.