What Doctors Are Doing To Keep Patients Safe When Telemedicine Isn't An Option

Beth Krietsch

While much of the country is trying to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s not always an option for medical care. Chemotherapy can’t be administered via webcam. Dermatologists can’t screen for skin cancer from afar. And emergency surgery can’t wait for the crisis to subside. 

Health care providers have had to quickly adapt to find ways to provide care for urgent matters other than COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, while also keeping their patients safe. 

Sometimes this means asking patients to stay in their cars until it’s time for their appointment. Other times it means staggering appointments, changing the number of health care providers involved in treating a patient, or making carefully weighed decisions regarding what care is absolutely necessary. Given that research shows people with mild or no symptoms may be playing a large role in spreading the coronavirus, health care providers are making sure to put precautions in place even when a patient isn’t showing symptoms, particularly when they’re surrounded by other people who are vulnerable to the virus.

For Los Angeles-based oncologist Dr. Joshua Mansour, in-person care is necessary for much of the care he provides, such as ongoing chemotherapy, urgent or emergency procedures, evaluating worsening symptoms and assessing other health care issues that are new or acute or that require a physical exam.

But since many of his patients are immunocompromised, and therefore at greater risk of COVID-19, extra precautions are necessary. 

“The big issue now is just weighing out the risk of being around sick patients that may potentially have been exposed to the virus versus what is safe for the person to begin with,” Mansour said. “So that’s kind of just what we’re doing. We’re not trying to stop patients from being seen or stop people from going to the ER, just want to take additional precautions.”

Not all non-COVID-19 medical care can wait until the public health crisis subsides.

This means physicians are wearing masks and gloves...

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