California doctors are diagnosing anything from appendicitis to strep throat with only a phone during the coronavirus pandemic.
“COVID-19 has changed everything,” said Dr. Mark Henderson, professor of internal medicine and associate dean for admissions and outreach at UC Davis School of Medicine. “Because of COVID-19 we have all of this distance and it has accelerated all of these ideas and it’s totally exploded our thinking around what we can do with telemedicine in primary care.”
It took a change in regulations affecting billing during the pandemic to allow a dramatic pivot to telehealth, as much as 40% to 80% of patient visits in some health systems in recent weeks. All health plans must now reimburse telehealth medical care at the same rate as face-to-face appointments, and California obtained a federal waiver to allow similar Medi-Cal reimbursement. The federal government eased regulations affecting Medicare payments to allow the same flexibility.
Medical providers say telehealth is especially important during the pandemic, allowing doctors to keep tabs on fragile patients, especially those with chronic conditions who are most vulnerable to falling ill from the coronavirus.