Overlook Oncologist on the Unexpected Joys of Telemedicine

Despite some obvious downsides, meeting with patients virtually in the time of the coronavirus has been gratifying for many local doctors.


Dr. Rujuta Saksena

Dr. Rujuta Saksena practices oncology and hematology at Overlook Medical Center in Summit. During the coronavirus lockdown, she and many of her colleagues were forced to connect with patients using digital devices. She submitted to us their stories in April. Here are excerpts:

Centuries of doctor-patient relations have centered on in-person exchanges and physical examinations. We have been conditioned to view that as the norm. Then came the Covid-19 ambush. Health-care providers have been forced into an overnight “arranged marriage” with telemedicine. For some of us, there is potential for love.

Over the past few weeks, I have had conversations with my colleagues about the new flavoring of our professional life. Here are some heart-warming notes about telemedicine in the time of Covid-19:

  • Seeing our patients in their pajamas is endearing.
  • We can work in pajamas, too.
  • Finally “meeting” their dogs and cats that they talk so much about.
  • Reminding them about social distancing as their grandkids play on their laps.
  • Feeling amazed after a successful FaceTime visit with an 89-year-old.
  • Enjoying a cup of coffee with our patients is now acceptable.
  • Fixing our hair in the camera during video chats is easy.
  • We can kick off our heels and the patients won’t know.
  • iPads are now a legitimate business expense.

This is all in addition to the benefits of keeping patients safe from unnecessary infectious exposures, improving access to care, cutting health care costs, and contributing toward a greener earth from fewer car emissions.

To be fair, this optimistic view of telemedicine has to be weighed against its downsides: lack of physical examinations, inability to console patients during bad news, inability to obtain valuable blood work, etc. However, to get through this crisis with as little PTSD as possible, we need to keep our rose-colored eye shields on.

As one colleague put it, “It’s just a different vibe.”

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