GRMC’s Telehealth now an option in wake of social distancing

Dr. Justin Hale

As social distancing becomes a normal part of our everyday life, it seems our healthcare providers are also finding ways to keep 6 to 10 feet away.

PNC took a virtual tour of GRMC’s new Telehealth appointment system.

Dr. Justin Hale, a neurologist at GRMC, says just because there’s a pandemic doesn’t mean people’s medical needs disappear.

“When COVID arrived on Guam, and I was instructed to limit my clinic, we were all instructed to limit our clinics to urgent patients. And, immediately I’m thinking, what about all these patients that aren’t quite urgent but they have questions, maybe we’ve done a lot of labs and we still need to discuss those labs. There’s all this routine maintenance for their health that needs to be taken care of,” Dr. Hale said.

He added that launching Telehealth was crucial for continuing patient care while respecting social distancing and despite obvious challenges around taking vitals or other in-person testing, he is able to complete much of his neurology appointments virtually.

“A lot of what I’m doing during the exam is I’m observing the patient, seeing how they respond to questions. Seeing how their language is and how quickly they respond to questions. And then, I may ask them some questions to challenge their memory. But then I kind of go to what are called cranial nerves that control different functions of the face. I’ll have them do eye movements…having them look to the right, to the left, then up and down. And then, have them open their mouth … say ‘ah’. Then we’re moving to the motor exam and checking for strength,” Dr. Hale said.

The doctor admits there are added challenges around internet connectivity, technology skills among some patients, and juggling multiple calls for appointments…

If you are planning to Telehealth, Hale says video is much more personal than just a phone call.

“I get more information out of it. And when I see the patient, I remember their story better. Oh ya, I remember you, you’re the guy who’s going to the states to your son’s graduation,” Dr. Hale said.

And it’s as simple as clicking a link that your doctor’s medical assistant would email you. You sign in with your name, 10 minutes before the appointment, do a pre-screening with medical staff, then the doctor appears on your phone or computer screen to start the appointment.

Dr Hale says while it was borne of the need to distance during COVID19, Telehealth might be the way of the future for GRMC.

“I think COVID is changing a lot about our society and we’re going to be thinking of things differently past this. And no different in healthcare, and I would say, I would be very happy to do it. I’ve enjoyed having the video conferences,” the doctor said.

Prescriptions fills will continue to be emailed to your pharmacy.

GRMC says patients should check with their insurance providers to make sure they’re covered for Telehealth appointments.

Of course, if you feel like you’re having a medical emergency —- like a stroke or heart attack — the doctor says you should rush to the ER for immediate treatment.