The Doctor Will (not) See You Now

September 8, 2020

Without divulging too many secrets, I am writing this while participating in my children’s Back to School Night; hopefully, out of webcam view. If there has been any saving grace from COVID-19 it is that future generations will have the luxury of sitting through the boredom of Back to School Night from the comfort of their home.

The pandemic has made us think of our experiences in the realm of essentialism, or what we need to leave the house for. Healthcare is essential, the waiting room not so much. The race is on in telehealth as physicians gear up to change their practices to a virtual setting. So here is another secret: your physician does not actually want to see you, and it has nothing to do with her ever decreasing dry cleaning bill. For handless physicians, primary care and most internal medicine practices, your lab results are much more valuable than your smile.

The boom of telehealth though is misleading, so before you know it you will be reading a 2018 People magazine issue in your local doctor’s office. Everything, well almost everything, boils down to economics, and the current economics are in favor of telehealth. As the pandemic swept the world CMS made some drastic changes to their telehealth policies and that trickled down to almost all PPO and HMO insurance plans. In essence, providers would be reimbursed the same amount for a face to face visit as a virtual visit. And that is why your physician was so eager to setup that telehealth visit. The bad news is eventually the insurance companies are going to change protocol and just like that you will be back to your doctor’s office to get your prescription refilled.

Hopefully some insurance companies will try and come up with some alternatives that reimburse providers for telehealth in a manner that they are used to for face to face, but don’t hold your breath. Most likely though a vaccine for COVID will also make telehealth a thing of the past.



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