COVID-19: How it Will Permanently Change Healthcare

This week, partially because I am premed, I decided to research how hospitals, including Choices Women’s Medical Center (my placement), are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. I wanted to understand how the outbreak would change the ways that patients interact with doctors. The biggest change I found was the increasing use of the telehealth system: a way in which patients can call in using video to schedule an appointment. I decided to interview a few people who are part of the clinic and do my own internet research about the pros/cons of a telehealth system.

Although Choices in-office care was open during the pandemic, they began to promote and expand their telehealth services. Though founded in 1971, Choices led in the development of online care for women’s health since 2016. According to one of my mentors, Choices Tele-Health was a way for the clinic to offer the same high-quality healthcare as their in-office visits while complying with social distancing guidelines. From the comfort and safety of a patient’s own home, Telehealth is another way to talk to healthcare professionals.

But wouldn’t online doctor appointments compromise quality? Apparently not, especially if the appointment requires little more than talking. Essentially, the same conversations occur in an in-office and telehealth visit: the only difference is that one is virtual. Patients can share a private, personal video meeting with one of Choices’ healthcare professionals or licensed social workers who will be able to address their specific concerns and answer any questions they may have.

Additionally, what’s cool about telehealth is that it allows patients to meet from anywhere! Telehealth allows flexibility with scheduling—a lunch break, after dinner, or on the drive to work. And, because the appointment is virtual, patients will not only save time and money, but it will limit the time they are are out of their home during this pandemic.

According to another mentor, “from counseling to a range of essential GYN visits including birth control, follow-ups, lab results, Full Pre-Natal Care, nutrition, and general options counseling, Choices ensures that their patients can privately and safely access our health professionals through our telehealth network”.

Now comes the confusing part: how does a patient tell the difference if they should have an in-person appointment or a telehealth appointment?  If your appointment requires minimal contact, then telehealth may be the right option. Examples include: follow up visits, consultations, and general questions about sickness symptoms, etc. However, if someone likely requires testing or in-office procedures, then they should schedule an in-office visit. According to their website, Choices also made it easy to shift between a virtual visit and an in-office visit if necessary. That’s so if a patient is not sure if you require any in-office procedures, they can also schedule a telehealth appointment and talk to their doctor about it first. That way, if they do require in-office testing or procedures, their doctor can transfer them to an in-office visit during their meeting, which can make their in-office visits shorter and their wait times less!

So, has COVID-19 permanently changed the way patients interact with doctors? The answer is a resounding YES! Now that telehealth has been popularized and streamlined, I believe that more and more doctor’s visits will be online. Be it annual appointments, follow-ups for procedures, or even just the question about the common cold, telehealth is using technology to make strides into the future.

NOT sorry

I am learning that social justice work includes MANY moments of despair, and that’s very worrisome for someone who likes to answer questions with “how do I play a part in this.. what can I do?”. But this week I learned about a situation and I actually felt that I could get involved instantly with the issue–that was different, exciting really.

Excited Comedy Central GIF by Broad City

I had heard about voter discrimination but I hadn’t sat and dived deep into the specifics of it. Through my internship I had the amazing opportunity to sit in with social justice organizations in New York as some of their leaders and litigators shared their work fighting voter suppression, including its past and present manifestations. The speakers included representatives from Latinx and Asian American legal organizations. However the speakers spoke about issues that resonated with me, similar issues that are present in the black community and it really made me feel a sense of unity among the organizations.

Obviously we all encounter different discrimination and I know just how real anti-blackness is, but I felt unity, which is hard to come by a lot of the time. It was a revelation: there are issues affecting the most disenfranchised populations of the United States and I have allies in those areas too. Looking at the struggles and fights of other disenfranchised groups that don’t look like you is important to see how your issues intersect.  Even if they don’t, their fight is also my fight because we cannot call this land free if some of us are continuously oppressed. ~which is why I don’t understand such hard core celebration for the fourth but that’s for another blog~

Either way, ways to get involved with voter discrimination include:

  1. Making sure to vote on or before November 3rd 
  2. Talking to your friends and family about the importance of the census ( it will affect redistricting for the next 10 years!!) and voting
  3. Learning about voting rights for others
  4. Work on the election protection national hotline
  5. Volunteer as an election worker (especially because a lack of available poll workers due to COVID can be used as an excuse to promote voter suppression this fall)

Surprise! this blog became a slick way to provide voting information :))Sorry Not Sorry Wteq GIF by chescaleigh