Telehealth visits across the U.S., including here in Western New York, are on the rise during the coronavirus crisis.

“I think people leave those interactions feeling like they went to the doctor or they had a good visit with a person who was able to give them some advice," said Dr. Thomas Schenk, the chief medical officer of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York.

For the past month, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York has seen a 44% spike in telehealth appointments. The virtual visits are done on smartphones, tablets, and computers.

“People are concerned that they don’t want to go places where they could potentially get sick, and then from a doctor’s office point of view they’re very concerned about protecting their staff and making sure they have enough personal protective equipment to be able to manage people coming through their office," Dr. Schenk said.

“The way it works is you use any kind of device that has a capability to use video, you need an internet connection, but then you basically meet your doctor online.”

Whether you have symptoms of COVID-19 or just feel under the weather, Dr. Schenk recommends you first reach out to your primary care physician. If you don’t have one, he says then try telehealth. He urges people not to drop the ball on monitoring their everyday health.

“If you historically were managing diabetes or asthma or if you have chronic heart disease or any of those sorts of things those things still need all the attention like they needed before, and so while your doctor may not want to see you in the office the way that they used to, staying in touch with them through telemedicine is a good option," he said.

Dr. Schenk expects the telehealth visits to continue to increase for the duration of the crisis. He hopes people continue to do their part by social distancing and maintaining cleanliness.