By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor
COOKEVILLE – Patients of the Cookeville Regional Medical Group (CRMG) offices now have the option of using telemedicine services instead of coming to the office, saving them both time and money.
Telemedicine is available at all 10 of the CRMG practices. Patients now have the option of either coming to the CRMG offices or using telemedicine services which offers a choice of video conferencing, using the ZOOM app, or a telephone appointment.
Patients can save money by using the telemedicine option, as insurance companies have decided to waive co-pays and deductibles for these visits.
“Patients aren’t having to pay anything out of pocket,” said Monica Morrison, CRMG director of practice operations. “Their insurance companies – all the payers – have decided that the insurance company will pay their portion, but the patient won’t have to pay anything out of pocket for these visits.”
Practice staff will phone patients the day before their scheduled appointment and offer them the choice between coming into the office, a telephone call or a video chat utilizing the ZOOM app. For patients that take the video conferencing option, staff will walk them through downloading the application to their device.
Some have asked why CRMG is utilizing ZOOM instead of common apps such as FaceTime.
“FaceTime is only used on Apple products,” explained Scott Williams, CRMC chief of operations. “We needed a product that would work across platforms, Apple…Google…Microsoft, and Zoom was the best product that we could use.”
The physicians were concerned with patient privacy and confidentiality also.
“Zoom has better security than some of the others,” added Williams. “Although the Federal government has eased some HIPPA restrictions, we’re still trying to protect our patients’ privacy, and Zoom’s a good product to do that.”
Patients still have the option to come in and see a physician in the office if both the patient and doctor feel it is necessary. Patients will be instructed to phone and check-in from their car in the parking lot. When the physician is ready, the patient will be brought in and taken straight to the examination room. Waiting rooms will temporarily be closed to patients and visitors.
Changes in Federal regulations as a result of COVID-19 have allowed telemedicine to move into mainstream use finally.
“We have been looking at it and evaluating it,” explained Williams. “But with the changes that have occurred with COVID-19 virus, the explosions of cases and the government easing the rules, saying that ok now telemedicine is ok, – there were much stricter rules prior to the outbreak – when that opened up, then we moved forward.”
Telemedicine is available at all 11 specialties in CRMG’s 10 practices, including nephrology, pulmonary medicine, gastrointestinal medicine, primary care, endocrinology, cardiovascular medicine, urology, urgent care and at Tennessee Heart.
The future of telemedicine is still up in the air. Various government agencies have been trying to bring telemedicine to rural areas since the early 2000s, but no one knows how the Federal regulators will regard the practice after this pandemic is over.
“I hope that we take a step forward in the future to strengthen that (telemedicine) because it really does help patients be seen – particularly in the rural areas. Folks that have to travel a long distance to see their physician,” said Williams. “I think it’s a great addition to how primary care can reach out to their patients and into the community in different ways.”
Cookeville Regional Medical Group (CRMG) is a multi-specialty group consisting of primary care and specialty physicians dedicated to caring for you and your family.
The growing trend nationwide is physician employment by hospitals. Some physicians have chosen to become employed by Cookeville Regional, allowing them to spend less time on managing their practice and more time with the patient.