Taking stock of telemedicine

This issue also covers intimate partner violence, narrative medicine, and conference coverage from two medical society meetings.


To varying degrees, telemedicine has been waiting in the wings of internists' practice for years, but now, due to a pandemic, it has moved into the spotlight. COVID-19's onset in the United States earlier this year saw many physicians who had never done a virtual visit before suddenly working to implement systems that would allow them to continue to care for their patients. Phone calls, FaceTime, and video visits almost entirely replaced in-person appointments, with a ripple effect that has continued as some office visits have begun to resume. Senior Writer Mollie Frost talks to physicians across the country about what they've learned from this transition to telemedicine, including a list of top 10 tips for video visit success. (And if you're not just seeing patients but also teaching students virtually this fall, read the related story for additional advice.)

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and with rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) on the rise recently due to COVID-19, our story looks at how primary care physicians can help address it. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for IPV in women of childbearing age, but the topic may be difficult for physicians to discuss and for patients to disclose. Our story offers information on implementing screening, including indicators that a patient on a video visit may be in danger and how to document IPV in the medical record.

Patients may feel more comfortable discussing sensitive topics like IPV if they've forged connections with their physicians. One way for physicians to facilitate that is by learning more about patients' lives and stories. Our article looks at the field of narrative medicine, which can help doctors develop the listening skills needed to determine what underlying factors may be affecting patients' health. Two schools in the U.S. currently offer master's degrees in narrative medicine, while others have related coursework and activities.

Our conference coverage this issue is from the American Thoracic Society and the Society of Hospital Medicine, both of which held virtual meetings in August. From the former, an expert offers advice on optimizing oxygen therapy for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as they transition from hospital to home, and a respiratory therapist provides a refresher on the types of home oxygen available. From the latter, two hospitalists discuss the unique challenges of doctoring and parenting, a topic that has taken on special relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please let us know how things are going for you, both at home and work, this fall. Contact us any time at acpinternist@acponline.org.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Kearney-Strouse
Executive Editor