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Taking T
for telemedicine are, one, you had to be able to see the patient, and two, the reimburse- ment around it. But with COVID, all that got waived,” said Cameron, chief operating offi- cer at Holyoke Medical Center (HMC). “And the governor came out and said, ‘look, for televisits and the phone, video, however you can get the visit done, and we expect the pay- ers to pay for it like it’s an in-person visit.’”
So health organizations started doing just that. “We started with basic things like getting some iPads, getting some physician PCs set up, and then it was, ‘OK, what are we going to use for an application?’” Cameron said, noting that they started with a mixture of FaceTime, Google Meet, and a product known as Doximity.
“A lot of doctors are familiar with that; it meets all the security requirements of HIPAA
in terms of being a secure channel,” he explained. “You basically send a link to the patient, and they just click it, and it creates the connection with the doc. It even uses a virtual telephone number for the doc, so it doesn’t have to be their actual cell phone. It’s a very easy process.”
Among the physicians pleased with the expansion of telehealth is Dr. Kartik Viswana- than of Holyoke Internal Medicine.
“Before the pandemic happened, we were seeing close to zero televisits. During the pandemic, we started doing televisits
to reduce the number of people coming in. Infection was rampant, and at that time, we didn’t want people in the waiting rooms, and when seeing patients, we needed to be com- pletely in PPE and masks.”
So government did the right thing, he added, freeing up telehealth to be billed like a regular office visit. “Remarkably, it was very popular with patients. They loved it,” he said, noting that patients appreciated not having to drive to the office, and if a doctor was run- ning late, it was OK, since they were at home. “They weren’t upset if they were 15 or 20 minutes behind.”
Cameron agreed. “We were using it wher- ever possible and where the government would allow us to get paid for it. Obviously,
“The barriers that have always been there
Pandemic Opens Door to a Permanent Role for Telehealth
the floodgates” to making it a reality for millions.
By Joseph Bednar
he idea of doctors and patients
communicating across a dis-
tance, via a video connection, is not a new one, Carl Cameron notes. But COVID-19 “opened
34 AUGUST 3, 2020 TECHNOLOGY BusinessWest

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