By Kianna Cabuco
Director Of Communications
Lane County Medical Society

Dr. Duc Vo is a physician with Northwest Surgical Specialists. He shared insights into how his group transitioned to telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What did the transition to telemedicine look like?

The transition to telemedicine adoption was very quick. There was a lot of prep work from our staff, but once the HIPAA regulations were relaxed, we quickly adopted the platform. We have our staff prepare patients the day before with review of systems and medicine reconciliation. From there, the platform is very simple and the response from patients has been overwhelmingly positive.

Why does your group feel a telemedicine option is important?

There was a lot of hesitation for me about starting something new and I was very concerned how patients would react. I have read a lot about how impersonal telemedicine can be. However, the pandemic has changed a lot of attitudes and people are very happy to be able to talk to a health care provider from the comforts of their home. They understand the need to social distance and they are happy we are still open, still available, and still working.

What are some benefits and challenges?

A benefit is that we can continue to see patients and continue to manage non-emergent issues. A challenge is billing. E/M coding takes into account the completeness of a physical exam and without a physical exam, billing is significantly decreased.

Are all patients qualified for telemedicine?

Patients need to have insurance, but the only other qualification is having a smart device that allows for video and voice, essentially a smart phone or tablet. However, there are a number of patients that still need a physical exam to make or confirm a diagnosis. Follow ups and some initial consults can be done via telemedicine.

If patients need assistance beyond telemedicine, what are the steps?

We will still use the regular telephone to talk to patients and answer questions. Our office is still open. We continue to see patients that need physical exams for diagnosis and evaluation, and for those patients that do not have a smart device.