By Susan Tulino
The Expert: Gary DeRosa, MD
His Expertise: Family Medicine
Gary DeRosa, MD, is a Family Medicine Specialist at Novant Health UVA Health System Medical Group. For more information about the doctors and services offered at Novant Health UVA Health System, visit novanthealthuva.org
To prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus across the United States, millions of Americans started practicing social distancing in early March. People turned to their computers and smartphones to buy groceries, order carry-out meals and, yes, complete medical appointments.
For at-risk populations, virtual care was a lifesaver for connecting with medical experts without leaving the home and endangering their health. It also served as a great option for otherwise-healthy, low-risk individuals who didn’t need emergency or urgent care but wanted to get a prescription refill or be evaluated by a provider.
“Hospitals and doctors’ offices needed a way to safely treat patients during stay-at-home orders,” said Gary DeRosa, MD, physician executive, Novant Health UVA Health System Medical Group. “It’s a true testament to how far medicine has come. We’re lucky to have the technology to be able to see patients virtually to help keep them — and ourselves — safe.”
Access to virtual care has been critical during the fight against coronavirus. It’s kept people home, safe and away from providers’ offices. But as the world heals from COVID-19’s impact, DeRosa predicts that a lot of patients will continue to use these services.
“During this period of social distancing, e-visits and video conferences are increasingly practical,” said DeRosa. “Virtual care is convenient; it saves time and resources and it allows patients to connect with their care provider without having to go into the office. All of these are significant benefits for both patients and providers.”
That’s right — providers, hospitals and medical facilities reap the benefits of virtual care, too. Providers can triage patients with critical illnesses and injuries and address e-visit questionnaires more efficiently.
“Of course, surgeries, lab work, certain treatments and diagnostic services still need to be done in person with a face-to-face visit. And people with medical emergencies should visit the emergency room,” DeRosa said. “However, virtual care is a safe, convenient way to obtain minor diagnoses, complete assessments, fill prescriptions and seek professional advice.”
Options for Virtual Care
Novant Health UVA Health System offers virtual care in two forms: e-visits and scheduled video visits. Both can be accessed through MyChart personal health portals. Patients with existing accounts simply log in to start or schedule their virtual visit.
Virtual care is also an option for new patients. New patients can register themselves for MyChart or request access by calling one of Novant Health UVA Health System’s primary care offices.
DeRosa shared what you should know about each option for receiving virtual care:
- E-Visits — using a smartphone, tablet or computer, patients are asked to input their medical history and describe their symptoms in an electronic questionnaire. A provider then receives this information and offers a diagnosis and recommendation for treatment or next steps and can prescribe medication if necessary. Patients usually receive feedback within one business day.
- Scheduled Video Visits — patients with minor illnesses or injuries can video conference with providers via smartphone, tablet or computer. Much like an in-person office visit, this route requires an appointment, but typically only takes about 15-20 minutes. After observing any physical symptoms and discussing patients’ concerns, providers can offer diagnoses, make recommendations for treatment or next steps and write prescriptions as needed.
While virtual care has been a key resource throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, DeRosa expects to see continued use of these vital virtual care services.
“Virtual care allows us at Novant Health UVA Health System to stand by our mission to bring the best of health to our patients and the community,” DeRosa added. “We look forward to seeing how it expands access to healthcare for a broader community in the future.”