Curbside health care: How the non-tech savvy can avoid the doctor’s office

According to a recent Gallup poll, four in five Americans believe it is risky to go to health care facilities right now.

COVID-19 has made telemedicine the norm for regular checkups, bringing doctors straight to patients’ living rooms through screens.

Telemedicine provides a safer alternative, but for some technology challenged people that might not be an option.

“I’m 80 years old. I don’t have modern technology now -- cellphones or computers or anything,” said Caroline Goodwin.

But some doctors are bringing health care straight to the patients who need it the most in a different way. Goodwin is one of many patients who are driving to their doctor’s office for their appointments. But instead of going inside, she’s getting a curbside health exam.

“To bring tablets to patients who don’t have them. To treat patients in parking lots is going to be a gamechanger,” explained Dr. Ben Kornitzer, Chief Medical Officer at Agilon Health.

“All they have to do is roll down their window, hold the device, and we’re there to talk to them and we can have a telehealth visit right from the parking lot,” said Dr. Richard Cook II, a physician at Preferred Primary Care Physicians.

This method is being put into place especially in rural areas or where there’s a large senior population. In a survey of about 1,000 seniors, just 24% said they conducted a telehealth visit during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Unfortunately, a lot of these patients were the people we needed to see the most. They were the elderly patients, the sicker patients,” Cook said.

But by keeping these regular checkups, even in a virtual manner, patients can treat ongoing medical conditions.

“Sure, we can’t listen to their heart and listen to their lungs, but you can see how well they’re breathing. Are they congested? Are they in any kind of distress?” Cook said.

And avoid going to the emergency room.

“Oh no. I stay away from the hospital at all costs,” Goodwin said.

Drive-in health exams are being performed in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. Many doctors have found this service useful in getting patients access to telehealth, so they are planning on keeping the service going forward.