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Care from the comfort of home

By Meghan Klaassen

Virtual health care, also called telemedicine, is a platform through which patients can visit remotely with a medical provider using a personal computer, laptop or smart device.

Virtual health care first started being offered at Salina Regional Health Center in 2016 as a convenient option for patients living in medically underserved areas to receive specialized health care closer to home. Telemedicine was one solution for increasing access to medical care while decreasing time and expenses associated with long-distance travel.

A new use

Enter the year 2020, where physical distancing has become a matter of public health, and people across the world have begun developing solutions for a new problem—how to thrive while keeping our distance from each other. The acceptance of virtual health care has increased dramatically amid efforts to protect personal health and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

"I feel fortunate and thankful that we [Salina Regional Health Center] had done a lot of virtual health care planning before COVID-19 hit," says Matthew Cobb, MD, COMCARE family medicine physician, "because it really put us in a position where we were ready to expand the use of it."

Dr. Cobb had used telemedicine in his practice a couple of times prior to the pandemic. Since then and throughout the pandemic, he has seen a range of patients through telemedicine, including infants with rashes, patients in need of chronic care management and nursing home residents.

"It has really helped us manage the COVID-19 portion of care," says Dr. Cobb. "Our workflow for managing potential COVID-19 patients—telemedicine has played a role in that. We're able to still manage them without bringing them into our building. So it reduces exposure to all of our staff and to our other patients."

Much of the care provided through telemedicine is conversational, and the threshold for what kind of medical care can be provided through virtual health care is determined on a case-by-case basis. That determination can best be made by your doctor.

Also good for major surgery follow-up care

32-year-old Jordan Stephenson of Colby has experienced the breadth of benefits virtual health care has to offer after receiving extensive back surgery in April of 2020. Jordan's surgery was done by Scott Boswell, MD, of Salina Regional Neurosurgery in Salina. All of Jordan's follow-up care has been done through virtual health care, saving him several hours of travel and allowing him to continue focusing on the demands of his busy schedule.

"It [telemedicine] was very convenient, being four hours away and being extremely busy," says Stephenson, who is a full-time student, husband, father of two children (with one more on the way) and physical therapist.

In order to use virtual health care, a patient must have access to an electronic device. Stephenson has used both a laptop computer and his smartphone to do his follow-up appointments.

"The only problem I had with the cellphone was with difficulty hearing," says Stephenson. "The laptop was perfect."

Your health matters

Patients have options for receiving medical care. While virtual health care cannot replace the need for all in-person appointments, there are many medical situations where it is a good alternative to visiting your doctor's office in person. Call your doctor or specialty care provider to see whether virtual health care is an option for you.

Categories: Virtual health care

Virtual appointments are available with:

  • COMCARE (Salina, Minneapolis)
  • Family Care Center, Concordia
  • Infant Child Development
  • Lindsborg Family Health Care Clinic
  • Occupational Health Partners
  • Salina Pediatric Care
  • Salina Regional Endocrinology
  • Salina Regional Neurosciences
  • Salina Regional Neurosurgery
  • Salina Regional Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Clinic
  • Salina Regional Podiatry
  • Salina Regional Pulmonology
  • Salina Regional Surgical Associates
  • Salina Regional Wound Care Clinic
  • Salina Women's Clinic
  • Tammy Walker Cancer Center
  • Veridian Behavioral Health
  • WellPlan