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The doctor will see you now … via video


April 24, 2020

Worried about that funny looking skin ulcer but don’t want to risk going to the clinic in this time of COVID-19?

Why not make a video appointment?

Many of the providers at Community Memorial Hospital and CMH Raiter Family Clinic are now offering patient visits through the new CMH Telehealth program. The program allows you to have an appointment with your doctor, without leaving home. All you need to participate in a doctor’s visit via telehealth is a device with a camera and internet connection, or a smartphone. The patient and physician are able to see each other and talk with each other, while maintaining a very healthy social distance.

Telehealth appointments are available for minor health issues or concerns, chronic care management or preventive care. A doctor could also answer questions about a possible COVID-19 case via telehealth, although more serious cases would be directed to the CMH nurse’s hotline and emergency department for testing.

While video appointments aren’t perfect for every issue, Raiter’s Dr. Ken Ripp said they can work well. That skin ulcer? Just hold it up to the camera on your smartphone or computer. The weird lump in your breast? You’ll have to come in for that one and any other lumps, bumps or cuts.

The new telehealth program is helping both the clinic and its patients survive the COVID-19 crisis. When Minnesota governor Tim Walz first issued his order to stop all non-essential medical visits and procedures to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic, Ripp said the number of patients coming to the clinic dropped dramatically— to somewhere between 10 and 25 percent of the usual number.

“It just, bam, evaporated,” he said.

They pushed out all routine visits, and tried to screen people over the phone to see if they really needed to come in.

But they still needed to find a way to see people, and telehealth became a viable option after the state and insurance companies loosened up on the “mountain of restrictions” that existed before, Ripp said.

“This is the first time I know that they (insurance companies) have let you collect on a phone call if a person doesn’t have a smartphone or computer,” he said.

Yep, that’s right. A person can simply call the doctor and have an appointment that way too. Ripp said he does most of his telehealth visits with his smartphone, so he can use his computer for accessing and inputting records during the visit. Other doctors do it all on their computers, using a split screen. It takes some getting used to, but Ripp said it’s working.

Of course, they’re still expecting a huge wave of people when the clinic can open up for all kinds of appointments again, as people will need to come in for follow-up appointments, and others will schedule times for non-essential surgeries like total joint replacements, colonoscopies and other elective surgery procedures that were delayed by the governor’s order.

Still, Ripp said he thinks telehealth will remain an option for the clinic and hospital even after the pandemic.

“It will be interesting as we get more busy,” he said.

Telehealth visits and phone calls are billed the same as an office visit. For more information or to see if a telehealth visit is appropriate for you, call 218-879-1271.

While most in-person patient appointments have been put on hold during the pandemic, physicians are still seeing patients in the office for certain situations, including:

• Well child visits up to age 12

• OB visits at provider discretion

• Acute illnesses

• Lacerations

• Injections for chronic conditions

• IUD removal/replacement at provider discretion

• Testosterone at provider discretion

• Depro-Provera

If you have medical questions about anything, including a possible case of COVID-19, the CMH Nurse Hotline is available all day, seven days a week at 218-499-6799.


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