Telemedicine changing the healthcare industry, lawmakers work to expand access

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Lansing, Mich. (WLNS)– The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people access healthcare as a growing number of providers look for ways to care for their patients without requiring an in-person visit.

“We launched telemedicine a few weeks ago at Lansing Urgent Care, primarily because we needed to respond to the needs of the community in this difficult time,” Hillary Myers, Executive Director of Operations at Lansing Urgent Care said.

Myers said while in-person visits play a role in patient care, there are more than 50 symptoms or conditions that can be addressed using telemedicine, including cold and flu symptoms, strep throat, anxiety, depression, and even mild symptoms of COVID-19. There are some things, however, that still warrant a trip to the office.

“If you’re in distress and you’re having trouble breathing and things– those are symptoms that are quite concerning and we want you to get in-person care for,” Myers said.

Lansing Urgent Care did not offer telehealth prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, but Meyers said because many of the regulations surrounding the practice have been lifted in light of the pandemic, making it easier to offer the service.

Some state lawmakers continue working to expand access to the service, as several bills have been introduced in the house. According to State Representative Mary Whiteford (R- District 80), Medicaid requirements made it difficult to access telemedicine prior to the pandemic.

“There were very specific rules about where you can have that service. So a person would have to go to their doctor’s office or a federally qualified health clinic in order to have telemedicine. You couldn’t do it from home. Within Medicaid which is at least 25 percent of our population, if they want to have telemedicine services, with this bill package they can,” Rep. Whiteford said.

One of the bills would allow someone who doesn’t have a good internet connection to be allowed to record themselves and their symptoms and send it to their physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.

Another would allow telemedicine services to be accessed from home, school, or any location the patient’s provider thinks is best.

“So many times a new mom would have their baby and have to go to the doctor for just a check-up and that baby would be exposed to illnesses within the waiting room, so this is really a great opportunity, a great way for people to have healthcare and not get sick in different places,” Whiteford said.

At Lansing Urgent Care, Myers believes telehealth will continue into the future, as long as there is legislative support. Whiteford said Governor Whitmer’s office reached out to her a couple of weeks ago to let her know they feel it’s important to continue the service even after the pandemic comes to an end.

“When you get down to the care of people, it’s not a partisan issue, it’s something that we can all come together and agree on,” Whiteford said.

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