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"I recently had my first telemedicine primary care visit."

ways to prevent telemedicine from becoming lesser medicine
By Trissa Torres

Boston, MA
United States

Like many people during the COVID-19 pandemic, I recently had my first telemedicine primary care visit. My experience as a physician-patient may be unique to physician-patients — or even just unique to me — but it provided me with some insights as health care quickly transitions to virtual health care delivery.

For several weeks, I had been experiencing a new set of symptoms. While I recognized that they could be related to stress, I also knew they could indicate one or more treatable medical issues. I held a differential diagnosis in my head and knew the steps I would take to evaluate a patient who presented to me with similar symptoms.

I decided I would only seek direct care under very dire circumstances because I am living with a family member who is at extremely high risk for serious illness (or even death) if they developed COVID-19. I needed a second opinion, so I reached out to my primary care provider and scheduled a telemedicine visit by phone.

My provider started the conversation with a preamble that went something like this: Given the current context, we can’t practice medicine as we normally would and so we are forced to practice substandard clinical care. I will talk you through what we would normally do, tell you what we can do, and tell you your choices.

I agree that we must do the best we can with what we have, but is telemedicine necessarily “substandard” care?

To find out what Dr. Torres learned from her first telemedicine visit during the COVID-19 pandemic, read the full story ("Ways to Prevent Telemedicine from Becoming Lesser Medicine") on the Institute for Healthcare blog (originally posted on May 14, 2020).

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