I am nervously working among the masses, some with colds or flu, some may be with C-19, all full of nervous energy and needs. I spent all day yesterday and half of today calling patients to cancel appointments and postpone procedures for a few months in the future hopeful that we may have some answers and that all this will blow over by then. My office administrator, University of Michigan partners, clerical staff, fellow doctors, clinical staff, and young PAs with early families, are braving exposure in the medical community to “advance the line” in this new battle. We are also transitioning patients that can’t wait for face to face opportunities to re-open, to video conferencing. The personal touch, interested gaze, forward lean, seated posture, that we have learned… The art of Medicine, answer to the vulnerable, that the needy seek, will be distilled from these visits to a more sterile environment. Curious how that is going to work in Muskie town.
Not only do I have to be computer savvy but the patients also have to have good equipment, reliable access to Internet, and be computer savvy. It’s really a good time to belong to the University of Michigan instead of being independent. Video conferencing went live in Ann Arbor today and overwhelmed the circuitry, screens went blank, providers had to redial multiple times, patients and callers gave up, and in many instances, those sick and with medical problems just became angry, and the providers became frustrated.
The hospitals and surgical centers where problems get fixed are reporting positive COVID cases, earthquake centers with ever-expanding circles of destruction spreading from the nidus to…me? To my family? To my 94-year-old dad’s nursing home? So they are canceling elective non-life threatening cases, to limit exposure and to decrease their chances of sickness.
When will we be back to traditional visits? The third-party payers already know that this will be a cheaper alternative than traditional touchy/feely visits where patients gain confidence in their doctors through a handshake and a stethoscope over their hearts. Maybe it is the new norm to trust a good looking TV surgeon rather than the physical connection that spoke of concern as a fellow human. Insurance companies will be watching for the bottom line. I can foresee my future coronary artery bypass surgeon with his bright white toothy smile, screen lighting up with his performance stats in the background, shaky sweaty hands hidden off screen, selling me his version of Hollywood.