Coronavirus pandemic pushes doctors to utilize telemedicine to help patients

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Doctors and specialists with Duke Health are treating many of their patients over the phone and online -- instead of in-person -- as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread.

This week, they created a 30-person call-center to help patients and doctors who need help getting adjusted to telemedicine.

Craig Dierksheide, 62, is in the late stages of ALS. He and his neurologist were already using telemedicine, because Dierksheide is no longer able to travel the three hours from his Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, home to Durham.

"It really is nice. You have the doctor and his assistant's undivided attention for 60 minutes," Dierksheide said.

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine is being used more and more to help doctors and patients connect.

Before the outbreak, Duke's health system used telemedicine for fewer than 150 patients each month (100 using video and 50 over the phone).

On Tuesday, doctors treated 400 patients via video and 3,100 via telephone calls.

"Hopefully this will be one good thing that comes out of COVID-19, that this infrastructure will now persist even after this virus is gone; we can continue to offer this to people," Dr. Richard Bedlack stated.

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Right now, Duke Health is training 15 staff members to get more doctors acclimated to telemedicine.

This week, a call center of 30 employees has been set up to troubleshoot any technical difficulties.

"I think this is going to be the wave of the future with this coronavirus," Dierksheide said.
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