By John Clark Herald Correspondent
Editor’s note: This article has been update to corrected Georgia Dixon’s role. She is a nurse practitioner in gastroenterology.
NOLANVILLE — Nurse practitioner Georgia Dixon says the COVID-19 pandemic may prove to be a catalyst in revolutionizing the way some health care providers deliver routine services and examine their patients.
Instead of regular in-person office visits these days, the Killeen-based nurse practitioner who works in gastroenterology, is using modern technology to examine patients remotely, with various phone apps and other video conferencing programs.
“Since the third week of March, we have been doing telemedicine, which includes phone calls and video visits,” said Dixon, a staff member at the Baylor Scott & White Specialty Clinic in the Hemingway building on South Clear Creek Drive. “We have apps and programs that facilitate that, like Doximity, which allows us to actually see the patient on video at home. Another one is Bluestream, and some have even used Zoom.
“Doximity is my favorite. We can send a text to the patient that allows them to just click on the link and they go straight into the video conference. I have 90-year-old patients who love it. They say, ‘It’s the easiest thing. I hate coming out of my house.’ They’re happy that they’re able to see their providers from the comfort of their own home.”
While she is no longer face-to-face with her patients, Dixon said she is still able to effectively diagnose ailments and prescribe whatever medication, treatment or procedure someone may need.
“The only difference is that we are not able to touch them, so the physical component is missing, but we’re still able to provide thorough care, and that’s the biggest thing. We can visually see our patients. If a patient has abdominal pain, for example, I will say, ‘Point at your stomach and show me where you are having this pain.’
“(Recently) I had a patient who was having heartburn. I had her point to exactly where her heartburn was occurring, and so I knew what type of medication she needed.
“I had a patient who was having difficulty swallowing. They said it felt like their food was getting stuck. I asked them to show me where it was getting stuck, and I was able to determine whether they needed an X-ray or an upper endoscopy.
“We are thinking about extending this (into the future), because there are patients who don’t want to come to the doctor. They have so much fear and anxiety — white-coat syndrome — and we’re actually thinking about continuing to provide this type of service.
“We’re about to take health care to a whole new level.”
A native of Jamaica, Dixon grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and has been in Central Texas for 11 years. The 36-year-old mother of two is working from home now, and says she is keeping plenty busy, especially with a 5-year-old and 6-year-old running around.
“Oh, yes, I’m not having any isolation issues,” she said, laughing. “My two little ones keep me busy. In fact, they’re the ones that say, ‘Let’s go outside and play.’ I’m also longing to take a vacation, so I sit and daydream about where that is going to be.”
One effect the pandemic has had on her personally, she said, is causing her to pay more attention to keeping herself healthier.
“It was a big eye-opener to me that, as a medical provider, I need to work on myself and do more self-care,” she said. “Sometimes that is not a priority for us, because we’re busy taking care of patients.
“I’ve realized that I need to take time for myself, and so I’ve started doing YouTube exercise videos, and I’ve really started eating more healthy, to build my immune system. I put my vitamins in Monday through Sunday pill bottles, to make sure I don’t forget to take them.”
While some restrictions are starting to be lifted in various parts of the country, including Texas, Dixon said she believes caution still needs to be taken. The measures that have been put in place since this all began have worked, she said.
“The fact that we locked down everything has helped. A lot of people have been calling me, asking me what I think, and I think we need to keep things closed until we’re in the clear with this.
“We need to try to be positive and optimistic, but there’s an assumption that the second wave may be worse, so I don’t think they should be opening movie theaters, concerts, (and) other large gathering areas.”
As for advice on how to stay safe and healthy, Dixon recommends eating healthy foods, taking vitamins, getting exercise and lots of rest, and using basic precautions when going out in public.
“The best thing you can do is build your immune system. Get that invisible shield that you need. We’re going to get exposed to it, so the stronger your immune system is, the better. Broccoli, garlic, ginger, drinking green tea — those increase your immune system. Vitamin C has infection-fighting properties.
“Put lemon in your tea every morning — that will increase production of white blood cells, which fight infection. Wear a mask when you go out, stay 6 feet from people, don’t do large groups — and sleep well.
“Eat healthier; go out in nature and walk. Build yourself up, so you can face whatever is out there.”