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The Next Normal: East Texas health official says telemedicine will continue post-pandemic

The Next Normal. Weeknights on KLTV 7 News at 10.
The Next Normal. Weeknights on KLTV 7 News at 10.(KLTV)
Updated: May. 13, 2020 at 9:13 AM CDT
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TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do many everyday things. One of them is going to the doctor.

“I think it’s going to be a bigger and bigger part of healthcare going forward,” said Dr. Sam Bagchi, Chief Clinical Officer for CHRISTUS Health.

Dr. Bagchi is talking about telemedicine. It’s like going to the doctor, without actually going to the doctor. You can do it using a computer equipped with a webcam or even your smartphone. Some visits can even be done with nothing more than a phone call.

“What the COVID-19 pandemic has done is accelerated some of the Medicare and other private payer coverage of these services to now be more comprehensive, since it allows people to avoid face to face communication and potential infection,” Dr. Bagchi said.

At CHRISTUS, Bagchi said these virtual visits have rapidly expanded primary care. In some cases, up to 20% of visits are now done virtually.

“I think some of the advantages are the ease of access, the lower cost of not having to navigate traffic, or parking. Those are all pros,” Dr. Bagchi said.

But he said there are some patients and conditions that still warrant an in-person visit to a clinic or hospital.

“It’s not for everybody,” Bagchi said. “And it’s not for every condition. There are clinical specialties and procedural based caregivers that need in-person visits to really get an understanding of what’s going on with a patient.”

Another disadvantage is that you likely don’t have access to the same tools your doctor does, like devices that can look down your throat, ears, and in your eyes.

“I think that’s where we’re spending a little more time,” Bagchi said. “It’s not necessarily a con, but somewhere we need to spend a little more time and do more investment and development.”

Whether you call it telehealth, telemedicine, or virtual care, some say this new normal could be the next normal.

“It was a trend that was happening anyway, and now I think it’s going to be a trend that happens even faster,” Bagchi said. “I think ultimately it’s going to be good for patients and good for the health of our communities.”

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