In an effort to minimize risks for seniors and those with underlying health issues during the coronavirus pandemic, the Idaho Kidney Institute has begun offering telemedicine services.
The clinic that specializes in kidney disease has locations in Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Blackfoot, Twin Falls, Burley and Gooding. Dr. Naeem Rahim says their offices will remain open for those who need to be seen in person, but they wanted to give those who just need a checkup or want to ask some questions to be able to do so without having to come in and wait in a crowded doctor’s office.
“We will see those who need to be seen who have more significant problems or deterioration,” Rahim said. “We’re not stopping anybody from coming in. But if they can visit from home, it will minimize the risk of spread.”
Rahim says they also want to ensure people don’t cancel their appointments and forgo their care due to concerns that they might catch the coronavirus if they go out in public.
“That is also a risk. It’s crucial these patients are seen on a regular basis,” Rahim said, adding that that’s especially true for those battling kidney or heart disease or other serious complications. “If they don’t do this, they may be at a higher risk for the diseases that already exist in them.”
Rahim says the patients they’ve treated by telemedicine so far seem to be appreciative of the opportunity.
“The patients are loving it,” he said. “They love the fact they can be in the comfort of their (own) house and be able to see their doctor.”
Rahim says the telemedicine services are available to all of their patients, but they recommend that people check with their insurance companies in advance to make sure they will approve it. Many insurance companies are doing so.
Medicare officials also recently announced they are expanding coverage for telemedicine nationwide to help seniors avoid the coronavirus.
The policy change carries out a waiver of Medicare rules recently authorized by Congress, and set in motion under emergency declarations from the Trump administration. The expanded telemedicine coverage will remain in effect during the outbreak.
“This is one step politicians have taken that will minimize exposure to patients at risk and others in environments that may have these infections,” Rahim said of the change.
The move also minimizes risks for doctors and their staff.
“It’s not just the doctors and the nurses. It’s the receptionists in the medical office, the employees and the cleaners. All of us are put into a situation where we are endangering ourselves for the sake of saving others,” Rahim said. “If we can minimize the exposure, all of these professionals can come out strong on the other side.”
While medical professionals are doing what they can to minimize risks, Rahim is asking the public to do the same.
He reminds people to stay calm, wash their hands often and keep their distance from others right now to help slow the spread of the virus. He especially encourages youth — who are not immune — to mingle through social media sites rather than in person.
“This is probably the only opportunity you will get in your lives to save lives by staying at home,” he said.
For more information about the clinic’s telemedicine services, people can call 208-904-4780.