Virtual doctors’ visits becoming more common

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Think you have to be in the same room with a doctor to have an exam? Not anymore. You don't even have to be in the same state.

Little Annalesia McCoy is having her first virtual visit.

"Hi, doctor!" Annalesia says to the doctor she sees on a computer screen.

"I'm the computer doctor. How are you doing?" asks Dr. Jay Portnoy as he looks at his laptop.

Dr. Portnoy is in Kansas City at a Children's Mercy clinic. Annalesia is in Wichita at a new Children's Mercy clinic.
The allergy specialist uses headphones to listen to her heart and lungs through a digital stethoscope.

"I can hear more with this than I can with the regular stethoscope because it's amplified," Dr. Portnoy says.

Then the doc takes a look at some bumps on Annalesia's skin. He diagnoses eczema and recommends treatments.

Children's Mercy is seeing a growing number of kids through telemedicine clinics in Wichita and St. Joseph. Dr. Portnoy says families get the expertise of the hospital's specialists without the hardship of long drives to Kansas City.

"In addition, we take Medicaid. There are low income families. Most private allergists don't take Medicaid," says Dr. Portnoy.

Children's Mercy has received a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City to compare the experiences of kids in telemedicine to those who travel to Kansas City for their visits. Results will be known in a year.

"Just seeing the whole thing in front of me, it's weird, but it's nice," says Karisa Herren, Annalesia's mother.

She says she would definitely bring her daughter back for another virtual visit.

Children's Mercy offers telemedicine in six specialties and expects to add more in the next few months. The hospital's radiologists also read scans via computer from some other hospitals including a large children's hospital in China.

Then they send the results back to them.

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