During COVID-19 lock-down measures, many medical practices used telemedicine, or live videoconferencing, as a safe and necessary alternative to in-person visits. While it may seem like a new phenomenon, many complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) physicians have been embracing telemedicine since before the pandemic. As doctors and patients alike continue to experience the benefits, the trend doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Practices that offer virtual visits are rapidly on the rise. Here are some of the ways NUHS alumni are finding success with telemedicine.
Meeting a new demand
In addition to in-person visits, Kyra Kare Health & Wellness in California first started offering telemedicine visits in August 2019. With one of the co-founders living out-of-state, practicing virtually is nothing new.
“Prior to COVID, unless the person was referred to our practice by another patient, they were very hesitant to schedule a telemedicine appointment,” said Anayibe Ramos, ND, (NUHS ’16), co-founder of Kyra Kare Health & Wellness.
However, as many individuals began working from home during the pandemic, telemedicine became much more popular.
“In some situations they do prefer telehealth,” Dr. Ramos said. “We have noticed that most tech savvy patients are opting for this option for follow-up appointments.”
Transitioning from brick and mortar clinic to 100 percent virtual
Like many doctors, when Olivia Friedman, DACM, Dipl.OM, L.AC.,
(NUHS ’15) first opened her practice, Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions, specializing in skincare, she started with a brick-and-motor clinic. However, over the course of two years, Dr. Friedman discovered many of her patients preferred meeting online and that she used her brick-and-mortar clinic less and less often.
Dr. Friedman became 100 percent virtual before eventually getting rid of her clinic space in March 2020.
“Patients don't have to waste time driving to and from their appointments, looking for parking or waiting in the reception which can make a 30 minute appointment into a 2 hour event. Instead they just access Zoom from their computer or mobile device wherever they are (home, work, out and about) and then go back to their normally scheduled life at the end of the appointment,” Dr. Friedman said.
During the pandemic, she continued to be booked solid. With patients spending more time at home, appointments were easier to book.
In order to make the most of these kinds of visits, patients are required to send photos prior to each appointment so Dr. Friedman can diagnose, gauge progress and match herbal ingredients to their current condition. “Dermatology is extremely visual, so it works well in this model,” she said.
In addition to being more convenient for her patients, Dr. Friedman said she’s able to save money on the overhead. “Since I do not need a physical space, my overhead is simply the cost of my computer and whatever level of technology I desire,” she said.
She can also see a larger pool of patients, not just those in the local area.
“My patients can literally be anywhere,” she said. “Even if they are on vacation, I can still see them virtually.”
A new cost-effective way to open a practice
Upon graduating from NUHS in 2017, Jessica Christie, ND, LND (NUHS’17) wanted a job that would offer her flexibility and more time with her children. Early in her career, she worked part-time at a clinic. However, with the onset of the pandemic and the rise of the use of telemedicine, Dr. Christie saw a new opportunity.
In May 2021, Dr. Christie officially opened Magnolia Integrative Fertility, a 100-percent virtual holistic health center specializing in natural fertility restoration for women and men. Counter to what most might think, the pandemic was the perfect time to start a business.
“There’s a certain expectation now. A lot of my patients still have to be at home and not at the office,” Dr. Christie said.
Because she didn’t have to worry about getting a big loan or all the expenses that come with a brick and mortar shop, Dr. Christie was able to open her clinic in less time. Overall, the obstacles to her virtual practice are few. For physical exams, Dr. Christie works integratively with her patient’s primary care doctors whom patients are required to see before her appointments.
“Everything else can be done online and it’s very easy,” she said.
When she opened her practice, the software needed to run a virtual clinic seamlessly was already available. This includes integrated software that allows Dr. Christie to stay HIPAA compliant along with digital chart to make notes during patient visits. She’s also able to order supplements electronically via the Full Script dispensary and order labs using electronic health records.
“All of these programs were already around, it was just a matter of piecing it together to help me run my practice,” she said.
NDs are well-trained in providing physical examinations and providing manipulations. However, Dr. Christie said there’s a lot she can offer her patients during virtual visits. For example, teaching patients how to perform certain tasks like hydrotherapy, exercises and other lifestyle adjustments all have long-term effects on health.
One of the most important things Dr. Christie said she learned at NUHS is nature’s cure as the foundation to optimal health. “I can help patients so much in a way that doesn’t require fancy equipment,” she said.
While there will always be a need for in-person clinics, Dr. Christie says there’s a need for virtual clinics too. She recommends students look into it.
“It’s definitely a really good option,” she said. “The best part is you don’t need to have a big investment to get started.”