COVID Changed Everything
When the pandemic went from a scary disease happening across the world to something in our own backyard, medicine was forced to respond nearly overnight. I moved primary care practice from one that saw 99% of its patients in the clinic to one that saw 99% of its patients virtually within the span of about 2 weeks. That meant upending everything – and not just schedules.
We had to set up virtual appointments, change the way we prescribed medications from 30 days to 90 days, and very importantly, make tough decisions about what we thought was truly necessary for our patients. Was that hip replacement 6 months in the making worth the risk? For each patient, we were forced to make tough choices.
During those first few months, I was worried that without face-to-face primary care, our patients would suffer clinically. They would miss their medications, fall off their care plans, and end up going to the hospital more.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only did they not end up in the hospital, but many of them also did better. With extended prescriptions, they were more likely to not miss refills. With telephone and video access to their team, their access improved. And surprisingly, with hospitals stopping elective surgeries, some people ended up getting better on their own. One patient, who had been on chronic pain medications from back pain ended up tapering herself off her opiates and was able to increase her activity dramatically. What’s more – the patients and their families were happier and more engaged with their care.
This experience propelled me to found Heyday Health. I know now that COVID has fundamentally changed how we will practice medicine in the future. Our virtual and in-home primary care for older adults is at the forefront of that change. While this past year has been filled with challenges and loss, it has also shown us the benefits and the necessity of truly meeting patients where they are.