Dr. Eric Straka usually walks into work at Partners in Internal Medicine here in Ann Arbor, Michigan every week day and immediately heads to his office and checks his schedule to see how his day will go. Now Straka only goes to his office two days a week and his schedule is much more quiet.
The first thing he does once he gets to work is take and record his temperature then puts on gloves and a mask. “There’s also questions that go with the temperature check.”Straka said, “You know, have you been exposed to anybody with COVID? Do you have any symptoms of COVID, like have you had a fever, that kind of stuff.” This is required for all staff members as soon as they get to work.
His office is also much less busy now. “During my new work week, I see probably less than five pateints a week in person,” Straka said, “compared to the usual 25 patients I see in a day.”
On the days he’s not at the office Straka works entirely on his computer at home. He will make multiple calls, including facetimes and other digital means of communication to his patients. This is a relatively new method to provide medical care called telemedicine.
The idea that doctors’ offices would be less busy sounds counterintuitive and less logical, but in reality it makes sense. “Even in the medical profession we are doing our best to maintain social distancing.” Straka said, “Many of our patients have underlying conditions, such as diabetes or lung diseases, which puts them at a higher risk if they are exposed to the virus.” So it makes sense that doctors’ offices don’t want to expose themselves, staff or patients to any potential spread of the virus.
Straka’s office has also made the commitment to not lay-off any staff despite a drastic decrease in revenue. “We need to find money,” Straka said, “and if we’re not seeing patients, then we’re not making money. We’re relying on the government and banks to lend us money to pay our staff.”
Straka estimates that a vaccine will be available in around 12 months, but it is still quite unsure. “I don’t remember any training for a pandemic like this in med-school.” Straka said, but my staff and I are doing our very best to provide safe and reliable medical care to our patients through telemedicine until it is safe to see them again in person.”