A Red Deer physician is encouraging patients to call their family doctor instead of using the Telus Health app Babylon announced by the province.
Last week, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the province announced Babylon, which is a free mobile app to consult with a doctor, but not necessarily the patient’s family doctor.
Dr. Peter Bouch, a Red Deer family doctor at Piper Creek Medical Clinic, and past chair of Red Deer Primary Care Network, said family doctors at most large clinics in the city will consult with their patients over the phone for issues such as refilling prescriptions, test results and minor ailments, to limit in-person visits to those who really need them.
Last week, doctors started reducing in-office visits and staggering appointments. Patients are screened for possible COVID-19 infection before they arrive and are quickly taken to an examination room to avoid possible contamination.
He said calling family doctors works well because they have their patients’ histories right in front of them.
“It just makes more sense than to go on some app,” Bouch said.
“You can do a pretty good triage over the phone, especially because you know the people. They know me. Most of them are quite relieved they don’t have to come in, especially moms with young kids. I have a lot of elderly patients and they don’t want to come in, and we don’t want them to come in because they should stay at home where they are safest.”
Patients can call Red Deer Primary Care Network at 403-343-9100 for assistance to navigate the call system for local doctors.
Last week, physicians were shocked when they found out that they would get paid less for phone, or virtual, consultations, but on Monday the province announced temporary billing codes so physicians are compensated for virtual care at the same rate as face-to-face appointments.
“We’re helping physicians provide care to Albertans during this critical time while also keeping them as safe as possible. Virtual care codes will facilitate patient care while making it possible to follow public health guidelines of maintaining social distance and self-isolation,” said Minister of Health Tyler Shandro in a statement about the temporary billing codes.
Dr. Christine Molnar, Alberta Medical Association president, said the new codes will make it possible for physicians to deliver care safely and effectively to patients during the pandemic.
“These codes apply not only for COVID-19 care, but for all the physical and mental health needs of patients as they present every day. Delivering virtual care will maintain ongoing physician-patient relationships which are essential for quality care,” said Molnar in a statement.