His primary care physician, Dr. Thad Wilkins, conducted a routine follow-up appointment March 23 with his longtime patient.
This time was a little different, though. Due to concerns about coronavirus (COVID-19), Wilkins didn’t want the 94-year-old to risk an in-person visit.
Therefore, Wilkins turned to a new telehealth platform at AU Health for Nelson’s routine appointment. Instead of the usual clinical exam room, Nelson was comfortably seated in his arm chair in his Evans home. In the clinic, Wilkins assessed his patient through a computer screen.
While COVID-19 screenings have been conducted via telehealth app for several days, Nelson’s visit is the first routine medical visit conducted in this manner at Augusta University.
“Hello, Mr. Nelson. How are you doing?” Wilkins asked. “I’m glad that you didn’t come in last week because I wanted to decrease your exposure to this virus going around.”
Nelson joked that he appreciated not risking being exposed to coronavirus, too.
For the next 15 minutes, Wilkins assessed Nelson’s current condition, asking if he was experiencing any health issues since their last appointment.
“You’re not having any dizziness or light-headedness?” Wilkins asked. “Are you having fever or chills with this virus that is going around? And you’re not having any cough or shortness of breath or anything like that, are you?”
Nelson said he’s feeling just fine.
Wilkins also reviewed Nelson’s medications and asked if he needed any refills. Nelson’s stepdaughter, Terry McBride, said she would check to see if he was running low on any prescriptions.
“I just want to make sure he has everything he needs because I don’t want him to come in for routine appointments right now while this virus is going around,” Wilkins told her. “So, if he needs to be seen, just call me, Terry, and we will work up another telehealth visit. That way we can keep him out of harm’s way.”
Following the call, Wilkins said the telehealth visit was successful and he could both clearly see and hear his patient. Nelson agreed.
“It’s good because I heard him ask questions and I gave him the answers. I don’t have to go anywhere but stay at home,” Nelson said.
McBride logged onto the platform using her smartphone. She said it was easy to access, she just needed to enter a password and “Dr. Wilkins came on,” she said.
While at times physicians may need to assess a patient in person, some routine visits can easily be conducted in this way and reduce risk of illness for both medical professionals and patients.
“This will be a great tool for us while we are trying to limit patients’ exposure to COVID-19,” Wilkins said.
Senior communications and media coordinator Stacey Eidson contributed to this story.