SAN DIEGO — President Donald Trump commended the telehealth industry this week for its response to an increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) calls. Now more than ever, patients are visiting their doctors via video call.

In San Diego, the Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers reported a huge spike in tele-visits.

Doctor visits are traditionally done in-person inside a hospital, but thanks to technology, tele-visits are an alternative.

"I've done several of them already today," said Dr. Edward Greene, who’s been doing tele-visits with patients for five years.

"It's actually saved a lot of people time and money," Greene said.

If you can't get in to see a doctor face-to-face, there are options as medical appointments by phone are surging.

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Green is in Internal Medicine at Sharp Rees-Stealy in Otay Ranch and has been practicing for 17 years. He said due to overwhelming COVID-19 calls, tele-visits have been easier and safer for health professionals and patients.

"People are concerned that they got the coronavirus. We are screening pretty much everybody at their home, you know, for their cough or if they got chills or fever,” Greene said.

Before the cororavirus crisis, Sharp reported an average of 50 phone visits and 5 video visits. Now, there are over 1,800 phone visits and 220 video visits.

"I can tell you, it works the exact same way in a good majority of instances," he said. 

There can be virtual delays and challenges, either with a poor signal or the backlog with so many video calls.

"As you can see, we have a little bit of technical difficulties, but if the video doesn't work, we can automatically pick up the phone and do the same thing,” Greene said.

So who's eligible?

-Patients who are at least 18 years old

-Patients with acceptable HMO insurance

-Patients that have been seen by that doctor in the last 12 months

The video visits can be done via smartphone, computer, or tablet and are ideal for follow-ups and for certain medical conditions, including the flu, sore throat, backaches, eye problems, sprains and injuries.

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