My re-introduction into clinical rotations after the COVID-19 halt was an outpatient Allergy and Immunology elective. This clerkship was entirely outpatient-based, and thus all virtual. It was not only my first time participating in a telemedicine rotation but also the department’s first time, as this was their first week reopening clinics. The rotation went surprisingly smoothly – each patient had a designated virtual room via our webcam program, and was seen in each of these rooms. After seeing a patient, I would staff with the attending in a separate virtual room. After discussing the assessment and plan, we would revisit the patient’s virtual room together and wrap up the visit. I can see the advantages of telemedicine: patients do not need to drive to their appointments, and can easily be seen when they are out of state, making scheduling so much easier. I imagine this would reduce the no-show rate in the long run, as the difficulty of attending an appointment is significantly reduced. Additionally, patients are not twiddling their thumbs while waiting to be seen by us. Since all of them were working from home, many of them did so while waiting for us to return to the room. I also found no barrier to developing a humanistic connection with patients virtually and had many heartwarming conversations. I believe this emphasizes the power of words and of verbal interactions, which will force physicians to improve their communication skills as we are relying on this as the sole method of delivering care. The only downside I observed was the technical issues, as several patients struggled to get the app to work, and we had to conduct a phone visit instead. I can see this model working very well in specialties where the physical exam is not always crucial, such as Allergy, but can see where in-clinic appointments would still remain very relevant in specialties such as Neurology.
Alex is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. As an avid lover of the intellect and interspecialty collaboration associated with medicine, she is excited to be applying for Internal Medicine residency programs. Her interest in medicine largely stems from her volunteer work in free clinics in underserved communities and experiences growing up with a brother with autism.
Before attending medical school, Alex completed her undergraduate degree at Northwestern University in 2014 and her Master of Public Health (concentration in Chronic Disease Epidemiology) at Yale University in 2016.
When she is not working in the hospital or studying, you can find Alex running by the lake, doing circuit workouts outdoors in the fields, drawing and/or writing, or at home spending time with her family in the suburbs of Chicago.