From the necessities and conveniences of telemedicine to the reality of virtual meetings, this is Dr. Joe Niamtu’s take on changes that have affected specialty in 2020.
So if I ask you how was 2014, you'd probably have to scratch your head and really try and think of what happened that year. But there's no doubt in the future when you ask somebody about 2020 they will tell you exactly what happened!
The coronavirus has brought so many changes to every single faction of our life, but not all of these are necessarily negative. Many situations have evolved that have actually made some parts of practice better and easier.
I have to say that I do not miss having a waiting room full of patients. Unfortunately, to get from one side of my office to the other, I have to walk by part of the waiting room, and many times I tiptoed and hunched down because I was running behind and felt bad about it. If you would have told me a decade ago that patients would wait in their car in the parking lot and be happy about it, I would have called you crazy. However, this has become the new norm. They're comfortable. They don't need to sit next to a stranger. They have their own music, can adjust their own temperature, recline their seat, and simply don't seem to mind waiting in their car. I am not saying that I would never go back to a traditional waiting room, but I certainly would do it on a smaller scale.
Another thing that this pandemic has underlined is unnecessary appointments. Being a busy surgeon, I've always thought that I needed to see my postoperative patients frequently to make sure that they were not having problems. Reducing foot traffic and patient visits due to the coronavirus has been a positive situation, as I have more time to see new patients and am spending less time with postoperative patients. Contingent with this is the grand acceptance of the Zoom platform. Even the most resistant practices to telemedicine have now found online consultation and follow up a normal part of practice. This is one part of my practice that won't change even when the pandemic is over.
In terms of professional meetings, I heard a key opinion leader say the other day that meetings are dead. I think this is a gross understatement, and I think that people are getting a bit Zoomed out. At first it was pretty cool to sit there and either watch or present lectures on these interactive platforms, but after a while, everybody was asking you to lecture at every meeting without compensation, and for many of us it became problematic. Even for those who just attended online meetings and did not present, we have all been saturated with these meetings. So, I strongly disagree that annual meetings are dead. In fact, I can't wait to get back to Las Vegas with the smells and sounds of the casinos and have libations and share stories with my friends from around the globe. My prediction is just the opposite: Meetings will become very popular once again because people have been stuck at home and will be ready to get out when it's safe.
I also have to admit, like many of my colleagues in the past, I was at times somewhat complacent about personal protective equipment, and the severity of this pandemic has been a constant reminder to me and my staff of how important it is to protect ourselves to, in turn, protect our patients and families.