How the coronavirus has changed doctor visits

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) The coronavirus crisis is driving more doctors and their patients online for medical care. Our Kelly O'Brien shows you how telehealth is being used in the North Country.

A lot of changes have been made because of COVID-19, including at your doctors' offices. Some have even gone digital.

"It seemed weird not being at the doctor's office but I'm finding it very convenient," said Warren Malark, who started using telehealth with his doctors at Hudson Headwaters when the pandemic first started.

Malark says the visit takes about 15 minutes and he can find out the state of his health without potentially exposing himself to COVID-19.

"You're staying away from other people, anybody with a cold or flu or whatever else. I think it's nice," he said.

Malark is one of many patients in the Hudson Headwaters Health Network making the switch.

"Pretty much a regular patient load as we were before COVID, we're just doing it all via telemed," said Dr. Ashley Bernotas of Hudson Headwaters.

Bernotas, a family physician at Hudson Headwaters, says about 90% of the patients she sees are through the screen. If a person doesn't have internet access, they offer telehealth over the phone.

The technology was something the network was developing pre-pandemic but it was rolled out sooner than expected to suit the needs of patients.

"We had to roll it out in a matter of days as opposed to a matter of months but we've done it successfully," Bernotas said.

Since the tech rolled out in late March, Hudson Headwaters has already surpassed 12,000 virtual visits.

But the service isn't for everyone. Doctors can only do so much over the phone or computer screen. So if you're injured or have a serious health issue, you should still seek out a physical exam or head to the emergency room.

"Stable conditions we're seeing via video but more acute issues, like maybe you injured yourself or something we need to place our hands on you, maybe a physical exam, something more in depth, we are bringing you into the office," Bernotas said.

Post-pandemic the technology will be here to stay, offering one on ones with your doctor anywhere you might be.

This technology not only offered a convenient appointment for their more rural clientele but for patients who live in a different place for certain parts of the year or students away at college.

"It helps with the continuity of the care, so they are not seeing many physicians and a lot of times we can address most of their issues via video," Bernotas said.

If you think telehealth is the option for you, there are nurses on staff who will make sure it's the best option for your health needs and help you get set up.