In this 2016 file photo, Dr. Mark Schmeltz sits in his Beacon Medical Group office and demonstrates the use of videoconferencing for telehealth visits. Tribune File Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
In this 2016 file photo, Dr. Mark Schmeltz sits in his Beacon Medical Group office and demonstrates the use of videoconferencing for telehealth visits. Tribune File Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
One positive outcome of the pandemic might be a quick embrace of virtual health care, say local officials. Many of them hope insurance companies and state and federal lawmakers codify their support after the pandemic and its resulting public health emergency guidelines end.

Kelly Macken-Marble, CEO of South Bend Clinic, said the clinic’s telehealth services were in their infancy when the pandemic hit. The platform and the equipment were in place, but officials needed to pivot quickly to train their providers.

“Before that, we were doing very little telehealth,” she said. “It sort of ripped off the Band-Aid for us.”

South Bend Clinic had conducted more than 30,000 telehealth visits by the end of the year, she said.

Beacon Health System’s experience was similar, said Ginny Schackow, director of physician practice for Beacon Medical Group. In mid-March, it became clear Beacon would need to train its approximately 325 providers more quickly than officials had planned, a feat that “made for some really long days” over about three weeks in March and April.
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