Letters to the Editor: How telephone doctor visits have been a boon to needy patients

A patient has a video appointment with a doctor while sitting in her Brooklyn apartment in 2019.
A patient has a video appointment with a doctor while sitting in her Brooklyn apartment in 2019.
(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

To the editor: For many medical conditions, diagnosing by phone is just as effective as doing so during an in-person appointment. (“Telephone visits with doctors work. Don’t roll them back,” Opinion, March 25)

Take, for example, this phone encounter: During a recent medical visit at Venice Family Clinic for a child suffering abdominal pain, our pediatrician went through the same questions and tests to diagnose the cause that she would have at any one of our 14 sites. Using her medical judgment, she diagnosed the issue and recommended methods to resolve it.

For the 27,000 patients we serve, phone visits ensure access to care. Many have limited transportation options and work in jobs with little or no sick leave. As a result, 11% of our patients miss their in-person visits, while only 4% miss their scheduled phone appointments.


For these reasons and more, we support Assembly Bill 32, which would make permanent the telehealth innovations achieved during the pandemic, including Medi-Cal reimbursements for audio telehealth visits.

Elizabeth Benson Forer, Venice

The writer is chief executive of the Venice Family Clinic.


To the editor: Like many seniors with underlying health conditions, I have postponed doctor appointments until this month, after being fully vaccinated. I have Medicare as my primary and a secondary insurance through UCLA.

I live in the San Fernando Valley, and my doctors are all in Santa Monica, so I prefer video consultations and had recently scheduled one with a new provider. I am grateful to his office staff, who called days before my video appointment to inform me that Medicare did not cover such calls and that my out-of-pocket expense could run as high as $600. I switched to an in-person visit for no cost.

I share this experience so other readers understand that before they choose to schedule a video appointment, they should call Medicare or their insurer to see if it is covered. The last thing anyone needs now is a surprise medical bill for hundreds of dollars because of a 15-minute appointment on the phone or computer.


Rosemary Chiaverini, Sherman Oaks