Twenty years ago, my husband focused his dissertation research on how a novel technology known as “telemedicine” could be used to deliver health care at a distance to rural populations. At the time I smirked: Who would willingly give up a personal relationship with their doctor? How could anyone believe that the “laying on of hands” could be replaced by a practitioner miles away through a TV screen?

Up until three weeks ago, I largely maintained that skepticism. Despite advancements in technology, I did not believe that we could feel the same connection, the same understanding, with our primary care patients through a remote encounter.

And then COVID-19 came to our community. Because our patients have complex medical conditions — diabetes, heart disease, organ transplant, asthma and advanced age — they now face an additional threat from a potentially deadly virus. To compound matters, for their safety, they were asked to self-isolate at home — often cut off from the support of family and friends and have lost access to grocery stores, exercise centers, specialist offices, etc. However, the almost overnight appearance of this virus does not mean our patients’ other illnesses have gone away. Heart failure, diabetes and emphysema can all be as dangerous as a contagious disease if they are not managed.

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