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How the COVID-19 Outbreak Made Independence Member Robert Heiler a Believer in Telemedicine

An older man uses telemedicine from his laptop

Technology has made our lives simpler, faster, and better in more ways than we can count. But having grown up in a generation where the most techie thing I owned was a transistor radio, I’ve been admittedly slow to embrace the electronic world in which we live. I finally converted to a smart phone last year, but I nag my wife (who happens to work at Independence Blue Cross) constantly that she spends too much time on hers.

The coronavirus crisis has changed everything, including how we interact with each other and the world around us, including our doctors. Never before has technology been so vital to our daily existence.

When I learned that I wouldn’t be seeing my doctors in person until things were back to normal, I was apprehensive and nervous. Postponing or skipping appointments isn’t an option for me. So like thousands of other people with chronic health issues, I turned to telemedicine.

My first thought was that the process would be complicated. That my lack of experience with the digital world would make it difficult and frustrating. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I scheduled the appointment just like any other visit, except this time I logged onto my health system portal. After verifying some health information, I entered the “virtual” waiting room. There, waiting for a few minutes for the appointment to begin, I listened to Sinatra in my comfortable sweatpants and old T-shirt, sipped coffee, and worked on my New York Times crossword puzzle.

The Doctor Will See You Now — Right From Your Couch at Home

My first telemedicine appointment was with a specialist my cardiologist referred me to for sleep apnea. The doctor arrived right on time and we exchanged a few pleasantries. I could see and hear him clearly on my screen and vice versa. I was surprised how personal the appointment was, despite the fact that I was talking to a laptop screen.

I made a few jokes and the doctor confessed that he was new at telemedicine too. We talked for a while, and he asked me to open my mouth close to the screen so he could look down at my throat for any blockages. That was a bit strange, but he said it worked just fine.

After the “examination” he showed me pictures of the equipment I’d use for an at home sleep study, which didn’t look so terrible. At the end of the 30-minute visit, he explained that someone would follow up with additional information and answer any questions I may have. We ended the appointment and I marveled at the effectiveness, speed, and ease of the experience.

While I’m not a digital convert, I’m no longer suspicious of technology’s role in staying healthy, either. Above all, I’m grateful and relieved that I have this option to receive care safely at home. I still scold my wife about incessantly checking her device, though.

Some things will never change.


Robert Heiler

Robert Heiler is an Independence Blue Cross Personal Choice member. He’s a life-long Philadelphian and retired model. Robert spends his time painting, working out, reading, and listening to music. His bucket list includes visiting the Swiss Alps, hearing an opera at La Scala in Milan, Italy, and finishing the New York Times Saturday crossword puzzle in under 20 minutes.