NEW YORK - Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum says she has been swamped with work since the coronavirus hit the U.S., but you wouldn’t know it looking at her office on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The cardiologist's waiting room is empty, the exam rooms are unused and the office is nearly silent. It’s just Steinbaum and her physician assistant because the coronavirus is so contagious.
"My office being empty is purely to protect people, but I am super busy doing telemedicine and communicating with patients on line through a patient portal," Steinbaum said.
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Steinbaum is steering almost all her appointments to a secure video conferencing service to which she now subscribes. She asks about her patients’ physical and mental health and any issues with medication, as well as answers questions about the pandemic.
“We thought this might happen in the future and the reality is, the future is now because of what’s going on,” she explained.
“The coronavirus has been remarkable for business,” video platform CEO Clinton Phillips told NY1 News.
Clinton Phillips founded Medici four years ago, a video platform for all kinds of doctors to meet with their patients. In the last two weeks he said demand for his telemedicine service has grown 1,600 percent.
"It’s obviously a very challenging time globally, but in our business this is the best ever," explained Phillips. "We have grown from doing a few hundred consults a day to several thousands consults a day.”
It’s free for the patient; they pay the doctor for their virtual visit. He says 25,000 physicians pay a subscription fee and he expects to reach 50,000 in the next few weeks.
Corona is just forcing doctors and patients to realize that model of waiting in a waiting room, paying for parking, filling out unnecessary paperwork is not healthcare. These are just things that we’ve gotten used to doing, but they don’t help people get better, said Phillips. He continued by saying he thinks Medici is “recreating the doctor patient relationship.”
"I think it’s great," Dr. Steinbaum patient Richard DeFrank said about video appointments during one.
"A great opportunity to see my doctor without having to come in," he added.
DeFrank is pleased he’s able to see her from his home in Brooklyn, but she is worried about video appointments eroding the doctor-patient relationship.
“I am having a hard time not actually putting my hands on my patients to examine them,” said Steinbaum. "And to hear their hearts, and to listen to their lungs, and to check their blood pressure and draw their blood."
For hands on exams she says she’ll find a way for people to come into her office safely for now and start to use more labs for tests even after the pandemic ends.
Michael Herzenberg: Hypothetically, fast forward. The coronavirus is over.
Dr. Steinbaum: The coronavirus is over and everyone is gonna wanna stay home and talk on screen and so not only is this something that is going to change the world in so many ways, it is definitely going to change healthcare.