HAMPDEN – Mainers ordered to stay at home because of the coronavirus have a “new” way to visit the doctor with the expansion of telehealth.
Hampden resident and two-time cancer survivor Shannon Simpson felt sick last week and needed to talk to a doctor.
“It progressed over the weekend and I knew that I needed something more than what Walgreen’s could provide me,” she said on Thursday, seated in her living room.
Simpson searched online and found ConvenientMD, which has a location on Broadway in Bangor.
“I saw that they were offering telehealth and I called that phone number and they took down my information and within about 5 to 10 minutes a doctor video-chatted me,” she said. “Right on my phone.”
There was nothing to download, Simpson said. She said the doctor’s appointment went smoothly and ended with the doctor calling in a prescription to her local pharmacy.
As COVID-19 began to hit in mid-March, the president temporarily changed regulations to allow FaceTime or Skype for video doctor appointments. On Monday, the rule change was expanded to allow phone call appointments.
“We’ve tried to move, within PCHC, to as much of that as possible for the safety of our patients, for the safety of our staff and to be able to continue to take care of people through the course of this pandemic,” said Dr. Noah Nesin, medical director of Penobscot Community Health Care.
The doctor said skipping face-to-face visits prevents the potential spread of the virus between medical staff and patients and saves masks and other medical gear.
Telemedicine has been around for decades but insurance companies and privacy laws had restricted much of the access, Nesin said.
“I expect after the pandemic that we will significantly change the way we deliver healthcare in this community and state and country and that telehealth will become and remain a much more important piece of the model of healthcare delivery,” Nesin said. “That will probably be a positive outcome. It has a lot to offer people.”
Nesin said that is especially true in Maine, with its rural communities.
Simpson said she will definitely use the service again, if needed.
“It was excellent,” she said. “I didn’t have to go out. I didn’t have to put myself at risk. I didn’t have to put anybody else in the community at risk. It was very, very easy and I highly recommend it.”