For many patients, going to a medical checkup isn't a big deal. But at age 92, James Bridgeman of Saxonburg, Pa., found that trips to the doctor were becoming more and more challenging.
Navigating his appointments has been equally stressful for his daughter and caregiver, Leslie Bridgeman.
“Dad does great for his age. But traveling to and from appointments tires us both out," she says.
Early this spring, Leslie especially wanted her father to see his primary care doctor, Ned Bugarija, MD, an internal medicine specialist with Gordon Gold, MD & Associates – UPMC. James had recently returned home after several weeks in rehabilitation, just as concerns about COVID-19 were growing.
“Dad was still experiencing shortness of breath and his muscles were weak, so I was worried about the trip to the office," she says. When Dr. Bugarija suggested they do a video visit instead, both father and daughter thought it was worth a try. And like patients all over the country, father and daughter both gave the experience an enthusiastic thumbs up.
“We really weren't sure if it would work. Dad's hard of hearing and I'm not very tech savvy. But we practiced in advance on my smart phone with my sister," says Leslie. “It was wonderful. There are no codes to deal with or passwords to memorize. In fact, we've now done several video visits with Dr. Bugarija."
Smart phones, tablets, and computers feature video technology that let a patient and doctor see and talk with each other.
“Video visits are a great way to improve access to quality care for older patients while reducing the strain on their caregivers," says Dr. Bugarija, who has been in practice for 18 years.
“The technology has been around a long time, but it became a popular way to get immediate and regular care during the pandemic. Video visits eliminate the need for my patients to travel or to risk exposure – for themselves or their caregivers – to COVID-19. I can observe, diagnose, and treat a problem even though we're not in the same room.
Once a carpenter by trade, James, father of five and grandfather to 11 boys and two girls, now enjoys watching the latest news on television and reading the newest thriller by James Patterson. Although hard of hearing, he felt he could hear Dr. Bugarija better during their video visit.
“I'd definitely do this regularly," he says, “Especially when the weather is bad!"
“We scheduled several video visits when we had visiting nurses at the house," says Leslie. “That enabled us to share Dad's latest vital signs and we invited them to join us on the call to offer any added insights."
“I was surprised how quickly my older patients and their family caregivers embraced this technology. And my younger patients appreciate video visits just as much. Many are now working from home and doing homeschooling, which means they're pressed for time," adds Dr. Bugarija. “Video visits allow me to be available when patients need care most. They also help patients avoid unnecessary visits to an emergency department or urgent care center. In most cases, patients save time and money, and give the service high marks.
“Video visits — and telemedicine in general — are here to stay," says Dr. Bugarija. “It's another way to practice medicine and extend our regular care. It's a win/win for patients and doctors alike."
James' treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.