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Life after COVID (Spoiler alert: not much different) but Medical Care Is Changed Forever

Our nightmare of death and misery is over a year old now.

We live with spikes and plateaus, shots and deniers, masks and distancing, unemployment and stimulus checks, mutants and modern medicine. Restrictions, afflictions, and contradictions.

Survivors are thanking their lucky stars. Long haulers with continuing symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, generalize feelings of poor health, and brain fog are longing for normalcy.

We are all longing for normalcy.

Is there life after COVID? COVID will be with us forever, like the flu, the common cold, and acne. No cures, just control.

With incredible scientific and corporate ingenuity, effective vaccines are providing a modified version of a get-out-of-jail-free card (see my earlier blog on this topic). But we are not yet out of jail. I am fond of quoting the iconic Yogi Berra, who said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

The Future of Medical Care Is Not What You Think

But there is another dimension of the pandemic that we need to understand. What will medical care look like as we go deeper into the post COVID world?

When person-to-person contact was deemed to be a major method of contamination and we were home with our stocked shelves minus toilet paper, and when we feared going to the doctor, the doctor made mouse-calls.

Governmental regulations were loosened, and insurance companies agreed to pay healthcare providers for telemedicine visits. COVID became a game changer in this space.

We now know from patient satisfaction studies, there is increasing acceptance of delivery of healthcare via your iPhone, iPad, and computer (with certain obvious restrictions and challenges that cannot replace a hands-on examination by a trained medical professional).

With high-resolution technology, which is generally available, patients can be shown X-rays and CT and MR scans of pertinent body parts. They can also see medical documentation and a display of blood results, which can monitor the progress of a disease with the effective treatment. No stale old magazines in waiting rooms and the anxiety of receiving bad news while swathed in a cold paper gown.

This screen-to-screen technology of telemedicine empowers patients to participate in their care with increasing satisfaction. But before we break out the champagne and let the confetti rain down from the ceiling in jubilation, we need to slow down and really examine this technology.

  • Depending on your socioeconomic and educational status, telemedicine can be a marvelous technique or can be a source of unceasing and unrelenting frustration. Nevertheless, we can no longer use the excuse, “I am not really good with this technology stuff.” We need to understand how it works (or have a child or grandchild who can show us). Our life will depend on it.

  • We as consumers need to understand how to open our computers to access our records. This typically involves a username and password. Write it down and take a photograph of it and put that on your phone. There is nothing more frustrating trying to make a medical appointment and you cannot remember these details.

  • The patient portal part of the electronic health record can be viewed as an electronic mailbox where we can send and receive messages from our providers. Most of these platforms are not intuitive; they do not make commonsense. We need to swallow our pride, be humble, and find someone typically in the doc’s office who can walk you through.

Welcome to the New Medicine, post-COVID

It is now highly likely that most of us at some point in the healthcare journey will participate in a telemedicine visit. The future of healthcare for each of us as patients rests in the hands of the fit, the focused, and those who become comfortable with technology.

The doctor visit has evolved. If nothing else, COVID has changed the landscape with medical care delivery. And that’s a good thing, I think.

More roses to smell if we take the time. Better than another generic photo of a computer or mouse, right? Photo from Tom Liggett, author of Mozart in the Garden, a memoir of Silicon Valley before it was Silicon Valley.

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