Local medical providers expecting telehealth to have high use post-pandemic

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Frequently using video chat technology is one of the major changes many of us have adapted to throughout the pandemic.

Now we're hearing from local doctors about just how common telemedicine has become and whether they plan to continue offering as many virtual appointments in the future.

For many of us, services such as Zoom have become a lifeline over the last year, even when it comes to medical appointments.

Many began to rely on what's known as telehealth or telemedicine -- virtual appointments that can be done using a phone, tablet, or computer

"Because the phone and the video were readily available avenues, we were quickly able to adapt," Said Dr. Amit Saini.

Kaiser Permanente has been offering telehealth to patients for more than a decade but saw the need dramatically increase during the pandemic.

In fact, Kaiser Permanente Northern California reports a jump of more than 3,000% in video visits over the past year across all ages and ethnicities.

To keep up with the growing demand for virtual appointments Kaiser has made a number of improvements to its service

"Our system is offering not just primary care, it is for specialty care doctors, mental health doctors and the most powerful thing is in the video visit we're actually able to have the primary care doctor and the specialty care doctor together with the patient," said Dr. Saini.

Experts believe telehealth is here to stay.

Although it won't replace all appointments of course, it will help free up doctors to spend more time with patients who need in-person care while also offering a convenient option for those with limited mobility or transportation challenges.

"We'll probably see a hybrid of where we were before the pandemic," Dr. Saini said. "There will be a definite growth in telemedicine but telemedicine is not going to be everything. The number of doctor office visits will continue to grow also."
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