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Doctor seeing patients through telemedicine

Submitted photo Dr. C. Stephen High speaks with a patient during a recent telehealth appointment at his office in Elkins.

ELKINS — A local health clinic is currently offering telemedicine appointments in an effort to prevent community spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The practice of C. Stephen High, M.D. is now offering medical appointments by phone.

In order to participate in a telehealth appointment, patients must have access to an iPhone or Android device.

“A lot of my older patients don’t have that, but almost everybody has a son, daughter or grandchild that does that sort of thing and can help them get set up,” High told The Inter-Mountain, adding that patients are encouraged to do telehealth appointments in order to stay quarantined and safe at home.

Though the appointments are not in person, they still offer a face-to-face healthcare experience.

“We have two iPhones in the office, and we can use those to connect with the patients — get them on the video screen,” High said.

“I think it’s confidence-building to actually be able to see the doctor, and it’s confidence-building for me to be able to look at them and see that they’re doing okay and offer encouragement and advice.”

“Having eyes on someone is always a helpful thing.”

High said telehealth appointments are covered by Medicare and all insurances during the COVID-19 emergency.

“That was a very wise thing that the healthcare services did — giving us a means to see our patients and to make sure that they get their medicines ordered and we see their condition without having to bring them to the office during the emergency,” he said.

While telemedical appointments are encouraged at this time, in-person appointments are “absolutely available” to patients who need them.

“If somebody’s got something that can’t be judged over the phone, they still need to come in,” explained High.

“We keep the place really scrubbed down and clean; we clean it with bleach every hour, everybody’s hands are washed, and everybody who comes in sick has to wear a mask,” he said, noting that patients with fevers and respiratory symptoms must first go through the screening procedure at Davis Medical Center.

High stated that he completely agrees with everything Gov. Jim Justice is doing in terms of keeping people separated in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Though initially feeling panicked while watching the spread of COVID-19, High has begun to believe that there are many reasons to be hopeful.

“When I first heard about (the coronavirus) in January, my immediate reaction was one of great fear and trepidation. It was exploding in Wuhan, China. The cases were doubling every couple days. We knew people were dying. We knew it was very serious,” said High, noting that the disease had jumped from an animal reservoir to a human being and was spreading rapidly.

“As I’ve watched this thing develop over the last couple months, I think there are many reasons to be hopeful, that it’s not going to be as bad as what people said,” High stated, explaining that he believes the virulence — meaning the severity or harmfulness — of COVID-19 has varied in different locations.

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