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Coronavirus: Try the doctor in your phone

UArizona a pioneer in telemedicine
Posted at 7:49 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 08:57:29-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - Health officials are urging people to try telemedicine to reduce the chance of spreading coronavirus.

The University of Arizona has been working with remote healthcare for more than 20 years.

Firing up your phone from your own bedroom can be much more appealing that dragging yourself to the doctor, and maybe exposing yourself to a roomful of other sick people. Now with worries about spreading coronavirus, more people may give telemedicine a try.

The University of Arizona been developing it's telemedicine program for more than 20 years, bringing sophisticated medicine to remote locations and helping medicine by phone and internet go mainstream.

Program director Doctor Ronald Weinstein says a lot of UA students get their care by phone.

“And since last July we're told they've done over 1000 cases. And most of the kids have a smartphone and they contact, a company, which is, which is called 98.6 degrees. And within three minutes, a doctor or a nurse practitioner pops up on the screen and then the student begins telling them their history and then may be beginning to look at the patient."

App stores are already overflowing with software to connect you and your illness with a doctor ready to appraise your problem and prescribe a treatment.

UA's Telemedicine program maintains a database to help patients find a telemedicine provider.

Doctor Weinstein says remote medicine works well for challenging issues like strokes or radiology.

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked: “What assurance Do I have that I'm getting a good quality doctor this way?

Dr. Weinstein: “Well we rely on certification and licensing programs for doctors, just the way we do for ordinary care. The doctor will have been licensed within the state."

And high quality cameras and data help doctors do their job. UA’s telemedicine program uses a test to judge how readily a doctor's eye locks on to trouble spots like lung tumors. They found the more years of experience, the more quickly a doctor's attention zooms in on trouble that shows on a screen.

For consistency and the doctor-patient relationship, sometimes you can arrange for a telemedicine doctor to see you again and again.

And of course, there will be cases where a telemedicine doctor says you really need to come in for a hands-on exam.