Dr. Watson, Come Here, I want you – 

April 11, 2020 – The rules were revised in order to promote physical distancing, and thus decrease the spread of COVID-19. But the change has also profoundly improved the ability for providers like me to address the ongoing national epidemic of addiction and overdose that preceded COVID-19, and that will almost certainly outlast it. Many of my patients are unemployed, tenuously housed, or without any housing at all. With this rule change, I can now prescribe to patients who don’t have bus money to make it to clinic, but who have a phone, or can borrow one. I can prescribe to patients I would never see in clinic, even if I gave them bus tickets, because it is too hard to navigate our halls and elevators while also carrying their sleeping bags and tents. And I can see patients who live in rural parts of our state and don’t have the resources to travel. Certainly, there are still significant barriers to care — access to phones, wireless, and data plans chief among them. Nevertheless, this is a critical advance.

Providing care virtually also has another important benefit. In the rush of a busy clinic day, it can be difficult to remember to ask about the details of a patient’s life, the context in which their health, disease, and habits develop and thrive. It is even harder to pay sufficient, focused, attention to the answers. But when I see John on screen, I don’t have to remember to ask if he smokes. He’s puffing away in front of me. More than that, I see the relief it brings him, on that orange couch, in this scary time, and that helps me understand when he says he’s not yet ready to quit. When I see my next patient, I don’t need to remember to inquire about housing: he’s calling from a Walmart parking lot, near where he plans to camp for the night. Later that evening, I see only the shadow of my last patient, inside her car, tight and dark. I don’t need to wonder why her answers are clipped, and she can’t seem to focus.



Subscribe Today! Your best source of current news, information and opinion about the issues that matter to you most. Serving the treatment industry, recovery community and health and wellness professionals.