Dr. Raj Govindaiah said because of COVID-19, by mid-May Memorial Physician Services was conducting about 90 percent of its patient visits via telehealth, telephone and virtual technology.


“People are asking more questions about getting care in different ways,” said Govindaiah, chief medical officer for Springfield-based Memorial Health System. “In the future, we’ re going to have to figure out what we can do to take care of people where they are.”


In fragile times, administrators like Govindaiah are championing the technology because it allows people to carry out stay-at-home mandates while reducing the spread of the virus and protecting health care workers.


Hospitals in Illinois had been gearing up for a possible surge of COVID-19 patients that included reconfiguring spaces, restricting visitors and canceling elective surgeries.


Hospitals have since resumed those surgeries and other medical procedures in accordance with Illinois Department of Health guidelines.


While telehealth service isn’t new, it may be a new normal for health providers.


“It was something we were planning before the pandemic happened,” said Dr. Amy Whitaker, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of Illinois. “The COVID-19 outbreak just made it more urgent. We expect the demand to continue.”


E.J. Kuiper, chief executive officer of HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, said he hoped grants would spur more changes to telehealth.


“In times of crisis, innovation tends to be accelerated,” said Kuiper.


The suspension of elective surgeries, Kuiper added, allowed the hospital to focus on personal protective equipment, ventilators and ICU beds for a potential surge of COVID-19 patients.


Other health-related fields, such as fitness clubs which haven’t been given the approval to open yet, are hoping their old business models and a little marketing will bring clientele back.


Jeremy Ferry, who operates Pure Performance Fitness Center in downtown Springfield, said he has seen the ebb and flow of the industry in the past.


Ferry said “a number” of his 100 or so customers purchased home gear when the pandemic made workouts become “work-ins.” Ferry also knows humans are social creatures.


“I don’t think fitness facilities are going anywhere soon,” said Ferry, who is considering doing some promotions as his center opens. “I’ve spent a lot of time on building atmosphere. There’s a lot of support and camaraderie in our gym.”


Because of the pandemic, said Melissa Beaver, an administrator with the Heritage Operating Group, which owns and operates nursing homes throughout Illinois, families will be better educated when it comes to choosing a facility for a family member or loved one.


“When you absolutely need the care, what are your options?” Beaver said. “It’s a matter of safety (for families).”


Contact Steven Spearie: sspearie@sj-r.com, twitter.com/stevenspearie.