Telemedicine proving popular tool during pandemic

MISSOULA — It's a technology that's been around for several years. But the pandemic is showing both healthcare providers, and patients, this is telemedicine's moment.

Montana's smaller hospitals have been advocating for the use of telemedicine as a means of bridging the gap between services and patients.

But when the COVID-19 crisis arrived, telemedicine became an important way for doctors to work with patients at a time when office visits were impossible.

"It's a really good way to connect with your provider without having to even physically access the facility," Chief medical officer at Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, April Weinberger, said. "And in a lot of cases it's useful. You get enough information to be able to make good decisions based on that. And I see us probably utilizing it more and more over time because of that."

Dr. Weinberger, who is a primary care provider herself, says she's gotten into it "very quickly" and has found herself using it quite a bit, especially when hospital visits were limited because of the pandemic. Now, even with services reopening with precautions at Marcus Daly, the telemedicine connections are great for that quick check-in, or follow up visit without the trip.

"It's super helpful for people that don't have access to mobility easily. It's really, really helpful for our patients," Weinberger said. "We have patients that live in all kinds of locations, like from Salmon to the Big Hole, and it's just like it helps those people to be able to access us in a new way. It's great."

And easy too. You can even log-in with your cell phone, having that face-to-face conversation that is helpful for both doctor and patient.

"It is much different to be able to see someone's face and be able to make that connection with video than it is to do over the phone," Weinberger said. "And also we can do it diagnostically. I mean we can see rashes. We can see things on people and be able to see otherwise. It's very, very helpful."

And that's reassuring during days of uncertainty.

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