Florida health care officials say telemedicine playing key role in coronavirus crisis

MIRAMAR, FLA. (WSVN) - Health care professionals are using the latest technology to evaluate and treat patients, and they said virtual doctor’s visits are already playing a key role during the coronavirus crisis.

Nine out of 10 people with health insurance have the option to have a doctor’s visit at their fingertips, but officials said most patients are unaware of it.

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“I think it’s such a wonderful benefit, but it seems to be kind of the unknown benefit,” said Dr. Mayrene Hernandez with UnitedHealthcare in Florida.

Hernandez spoke with 7News about the feature, called telemedicine, from her Miramar office on Friday.

Telemedicine, also known as virtual visits, allow patients to use their tablet, computer or your phone to see a doctor.

“We live in a very busy society, right? So you definitely want things fast and now,” said Hernandez. “This is the way to do it, especially because it’s healthier. You’re going to minimize your exposure to other sick folks.”

Privacy, affordability and time saving are other pluses that Hernandez pointed out.

“It’s already starting to tell you frequently asked questions about the novel coronavirus,” she said.

Hernandez and other leaders at UnitedHealthcare said the virtual visits can be particularly helpful when people are worried about a potential coronavirus outbreak. They can download an app and talk to a doctor about any symptoms that concern them.

“At the comfort of your home — you can do it anywhere,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez said there is always alarm about something new, but she stressed that the influenza viruses have killed more people than the coronavirus.

“From a clinical perspective, yes, it is important, because it’s new. It’s unknown. It has a lot of aspects,” she said, “but I find that adding things like virtual visits to — I call it your tool of benefits — in a clinical space, is so important because it can be your first line in getting those signs and symptoms reviewed by a physician.”

Hernandez said 40% of UnitedHealthcare members have said they would use the telemedicine option, but only 10% have actually opted in.

“We look at apps for everything. Why not your own health care?” said Hernandez.

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