ATLANTA, GA —A Georgia medical director with UnitedHealthcare says that telemedicine is the future and encourages more people to use it. Although the virtual doctor appointments have been around for decades, it’s a use of technology that more people should begin to consider during the coronavirus pandemic, said Dr. Toyosi Okurounmu.
She's the chief medical officer for employer and individual lines of business at UnitedHealthcare, supporting Georgia and Alabama, and tells Patch that telemedicine benefits everyone.
“It’s convenient and it’s accessible,” she said. “It’s a lot more affordable, and ultimately helps us all get to what we need, which is to stay healthy. It’s a win-win.”
Okurounmu encourages more patients to use it, especially now.
“We’re in a world of uncertainty,” she said. “There’s a higher illness burden. One of the big worries is about the capacity of our healthcare system.”
Telemedicine is a way for doctors to determine who can stay home and who needs to visit a healthcare facility for testing, Okurounmu said.
It also protects those healthcare workers who have higher risks of exposure because they’re on the “frontline.”
“This opens up access to them to be able to care for patients virtually without having to worry about being a potential social risk to whoever needs care,” Okurounmu said.
Besides a safety precaution, there’s also a convenience factor that plays a role.
“You’re in the comfort of your own home,” Okurounmu said.
Just like a normal face-to-face doctor visit, physicians still ask the same questions during the virtual visit. Asking patients about their medical history is always first, followed by having them describe their symptoms.
From that initial conversation, the doctor is then able to decide the next course of action.
Even though telemedicine has been around for decades, Okurounmu said, the adoption of it has been low and she’d like to see that change.
“Right now we have had an adoption at about 10 percent, even though 40 percent of Americans say they will consider telemedicine,” she said.
Now is the right time for people who haven’t given telemedicine a chance to try it, Okurounmu said.
“We think in routine,” she said. “We’re thinking about what we may have always done and the way we have always done it. In the environment that we’re in right now, there’s a lot of things we’re having to rethink.”
Learn more about UnitedHealthcare’s Telehealth services online.