In Your Own Words: William Thornbury, M.D.

KMA is sharing the first-person accounts of physicians from across the state as they prepare for and battle the COVID-19 pandemic. These stories will also be published at kyma.org/covid19. If you are interested in submitting an account, please email Emily Schott, schott@kyma.org

KMA spoke to William Thornbury, M.D., of Glasgow specifically regarding his experience with telehealth.

Posted March 31, 2020

Telehealth is working very well. About half the cases we’re seeing right now are telehealth cases. I would attribute a lot of that in Kentucky to the foresight of the legislature in moving us through the telemedicine legislation in 2018.

That legislation put us in the forefront of telemedicine legislation in the country so now we’re ahead of the game instead of behind the game. I think what’s most likely going to happen after the crisis is a lot of the states will begin to see that they likely may need legislation very similar to ours so that their telemedicine markets can flourish.

This is allowing us to finally move from the horse and buggy to the automobile. We have a new delivery model that needs to be in place for a number of reasons. Healthcare has been woefully behind the rest of the economy in this delivery model. Crises like this bring out the best of what we can offer the public.

Half the people we’re seeing are using it, but the other half need face-to-face visits. There’s a very important caveat I learned the hard way over ten years−and this is something I didn’t study when I did my work in telemedicine−when you take a few people out of your clinic, say three to five, that opens that space up.

If I’m seeing 40 patients a day, and I can see 20 of them online, then I can see the 20 I need to see in the office and give them some extra time or bring in people that want to call in the same day. In the past, we’ve not been able to do that. This makes our health system much more efficient instead of pushing people to the urgent clinics, or to the ERs.

We want to work together for the sustainability of our health economy, particularly in these times of crisis, as KMA members, we want to be the leaders in this, and we want to help our colleagues.