With the coronavirus outbreak ravaging most continents, we’ve been forced to find ways to keep crucial services running. The internet has played an integral role, especially in regard to meetings, learning, and shopping. One other crucial contribution has been telehealth.
Most doctors prefer face to face visits but that has been made impossible by the current services. Telehealth is a good alternative, providing patients with the healthcare they need with zero risk. And since insurers and the federal government started covering virtual visits, states have begun allowing medical marijuana to be prescribed virtually.
The medical cannabis industry provides employment to hundreds of thousands of workers and medicine to millions. Most states that allow cannabis deemed the industry essential, giving cannabis dispensaries permission to keep operating during the lockdown. More than two dozen of those states have temporarily permitted prescribing medical cannabis virtually.
Although the conditions for virtual healthcare may vary, with some demanding initial physical visits, most states allow something similar to Maryland’s: “Upon termination of the state of emergency, this bulletin will terminate and certifying providers may no longer issue a written certification via telehealth.”
The practice is relatively new in the medical marijuana space, and some doctors and patients are warming up to it. Jordan Tishler, MD, runs a medical cannabis practice in the Boston area, and he prefers to be in the same room as his patients. However, after a month of just virtual visits, he says he has found “telemedicine works well for what I do.”
“It’s mostly talking and at the end, patients get an electronic copy of everything. They don’t even have to take notes,” says Leslie Mendoza Temple, MD, director of North shore Medical Group’s Interactive Medicine program in Chicago. She is also on the board of the advocacy group Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFRC).
According to Mendoza Temple, she is just as busy as she was before the pandemic. She hosts intractable pain group meetings via Zoom where she shares the risks and benefits and offers Q&A sessions. She holds individual virtual visits for each patient as well. “I don’t feel like it’s much, much different than the in-person visits I did before,” she says.
The almost seamless transition into telehealth may be because medical marijuana appointments rarely called for physical visits, even before the pandemic.
Advocates say that states should make this model permanent after the coronavirus outbreak dies down. “Patients love telemedicine. Even before the pandemic, patients and us were advocating for it. Our biggest concern is, can we continue to have this after the pandemic is over because it is a really useful resource,” Debbie Churgai, director of Americans for Safe Access, a medical cannabis advocacy group says.
Experts believe this new option if interacting with medical marijuana health professionals is a welcome development to marijuana industry players like Green Growth Brands Inc. (CSE: GGB) (OTCQB: GGBXF) who were worried patients would suffer due to lack of physical access to their doctors.
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