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Video medical appointments way of the future, doc says

Published on

Cathy Dobson

When Dr. Glen Maddison sees his patients virtually it feels as though they’re in the same room.

“It’s like we’re about a foot away. I can see their colour, if they are swollen, if they have problems breathing,” he says.

“It’s not 100% but it’s probably 99%.”

Dr. Glen Maddison

The advantages of video medicine required by COVID-19 are so obvious it should be maintained after the pandemic, said Dr. Maddison.

He is one of four physicians at the St. Joseph’s Hospice palliative care clinic, and providing care to patients across Lambton County usually means a lot of travel.

Since the virus made physical distancing necessary, the clinic has used a virtual platform for about 20% of appointments.

“It’s a win-win, for me and the patients,” Maddison said. “Some are bedridden and can’t come here, so I would normally travel there. Now, instead of giving up half the day to travel, we can see one another on video. They really like it and so do we.”

Virtual appointments mean no weather disruptions and patients can remain comfortable at home.

“It lends itself to palliative care because we can see one another and they can see the doctor’s empathy, which is important,” he said.

Surgical follow-ups can be done virtually, rather than in an office, and patients who receive at-home nursing care can time their appointment to when the nurse visits.

The pandemic has caused some people with symptoms to postpone seeking medical help. So when they do finally see a doctor the disease has progressed, he said.

“It’s unfortunate because earlier treatment might have meant a better outcome.”

Telephone appointments during the pandemic are “better than nothing, but video is 100 times better,” he said.

“One day there will be an end to this terrible thing, but I can see continuing to use video when the pandemic is over,” he said.

The Ontario government pays physicians “somewhat” less for a video appointment but doctors can see more patients, said Maddison.  “I think it works out about the same.”

This spring the Health Ministry introduced temporary billing codes and procedures for virtual care and should make them permanent, he added.

“It’s the right thing to do. I think it will change the face of medicine.”

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