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Wear the Gown: Experts stress the importance of telemedicine amid healthcare shortages

Especially in urban areas, telemedicine can be a lifeline for many

SAN ANTONIO — Primary care deserts are areas that don't have enough primary care doctors for the population.

Following the pandemic only 9% of counties in Texas have enough primary care providers to treat their residents. That is just one reason why telemedicine is so important for those without access to a physician.

"A lot of the businesses started to have trouble with COVID, decrease in workforce. So did the health care offices," Dr. Tiffany Hendricks, a staff physician with Primary Care 360 Teladoc Health told us.

That decreased the number of providers too, especially in urban areas. 

"Which leads to the whole idea of health equity, how we don't have as not equal among certain populations. There's a lot of areas with health care shortages," Dr. Hendricks said.

One of the big pros of telemedicine, not having to be around other sick people. A study by Independa in November of 2022 found over 90 percent of Americans used telehealth services in the last year. 90 percent of them say they enjoyed their experience. And 71 percent of those using telehealth did so on their smartphones. 

"That was a big issue for a lot of people when the pandemic started, but also having the convenience of seeing anyone pretty much any time, anywhere is something that telemedicine does offer," Dr. Hendricks added.

According to Teladoc they've delivered more visits in Texas than an other U.S. state or territory resulting in improved diagnoses and resulting care. Diagnoses for depression are up 85 percent among seniors in the state. Among Gen Zers diagnoses for anxiety are up 33 percent, and hypertension up 17 percent. Two conditions that are often linked. And millennials accounted for 43 percent of long covid diagnoses in Texas in 2022. 

"We're trying to make, you know, trying to help with this whole health inequity issue," Dr. Hendricks told us.

Dr. Hendricks also told us within 10 years, up to another 50,000 providers are expected to age out of the system, the baby boomer generation, which is why telemedicine will become even more important.

If you would like to see more of our Wear The Gown stories just head to WearTheGown.com.

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