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House calls: Doctors use video technology to check on patients

With people being encouraged to stay home as much as possible and to socially distance themselves from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some medical facilities are utilizing telehealth options for appointments.

Telehealth allows the patient at home to see and speak to a physician through a computer, according to Boulder City Hospital Chief Operating Officer Rae Cummings.

All that is needed is an email account and a computer with a web camera, speakers and internet connection.

Cummings said the hospital expedited offering this service at Boulder City Primary Care, 999 Adams Blvd., Suite 104, due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re very excited to have it, especially with what’s going on. … I just think with the pandemic … it’s something we can do to protect our community,” she said.

She said they also hope that this service will help decrease fear in the community as well as help keep people healthy.

“We want to be able to help those who are well to maintain their health,” she said.

Dr. Larry Smith, a chiropractor and nurse practitioner, said he has done around a dozen telehealth appointments at his practice, Boulder Primary Care, 1252 Wyoming St., since people began isolating themselves at home. He said he appreciates the flexibility they offer, providing the ability for him and his patient to visit face to face.

He said he can check on patients’ well-being while remaining compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 that protects their privacy.

Boulder City resident Dyanah Musgrave said she is a big proponent of telehealth.

“I can’t say enough good things about it,” she said.

Musgrave had surgery a week ago and used it for a follow-up appointment with her surgeon as it was dangerous for her to risk being exposed to the virus.

“It protects the medical professional, as well as the patient,” she said.

It was not the first time she had used a telehealth service. In August, Musgrave was on an 8,000-foot-tall mountain camping with her husband, Dale Ryan, when she was bit by something. A ranger said it looked like a black widow spider bite.

Fortunately, Musgrave had set up a telehealth program on her cellphone and was able to get her bite looked at right away.

“We were 50 miles from a secondary road,” she said, adding that it would have taken about an hour to pack up their recreational vehicle to even start their journey for help.

She said the doctor was able to look at her bite and what was in her medicine cabinet, as well as find a nearby pharmacy in case she needed medications.

“It was the most comforting thing I’ve ever experienced,” she said.

While telehealth appointments offer an ideal solution for maintaining a person’s health, Smith said they are not always the best solution.

“From my perspective, telemedicine has a place in primary care.”

He believes they are best for established patients with chronic conditions that have been managed for several months, their prescribed medicines are being tolerated and everything seems to be working.

When someone has a new illness or complaining about congestion in their nose or chest, Smith said a video conference won’t allow him to use a stethoscope to hear what is going on. Or, if someone recently had a surgical procedure, he needs to feel if there is any heat on the skin.

“Though we are in unprecedented times, we still need hands-on medicine so we can evaluate the situation properly,” he said.

New patients also cannot take advantage of telehealth appointments, Cummings said.

For many people, telehealth services are included with their insurance plan and offered at no extra cost.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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