By Daniel Casciato
Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, DocMJ remains dedicated to helping its patients. As the largest medical cannabis recommendation physician network in the state of Florida, DocMJ has 25 locations and over 45 physicians. While in-person visits have been minimized, DocMJ is primarily using telemedicine to service the needs of patients.
“We strive to provide the best service, care and knowledge to our patients at the most affordable pricing,” says Derek Hundley, Chief Operating Officer for DOCMJ.
On March 16, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Office of the Surgeon General/Department of Health (DOH) allowed current medical cannabis patients to conduct follow-up visits through telemedicine. By March 18, Hundley says they had implemented telemedicine into its practice.
“Prior to that we were taking precautions to ensure our patients, staff and physicians were at minimal risk by practicing social distancing, not coming in with an elevated temperature or sick and using protective equipment,” he says. “With the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, we did not take the possibility of being infected or spreading the coronavirus lightly from the start.”
DOCMJ initially reached out to the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) and DOH prior to finding out they were going to allow telemedicine visits but to no avail, according to Hundley.
“We were told it was not on the table,” he says. “As soon as we learned we could keep our staff, physicians and patients at a minimal risk by using telemedicine we knew we had to get it up and running fast.”
Hundley adds that they did not want to put anyone at risk but they are also obligated to be available for them since patients were no longer using pharmaceutical drugs to manage their symptoms of the various conditions they have.
“We have had much success with the telemedicine visits and hope that we can continue to see our patients via telemedicine until the risk of the coronavirus is over,” says Hundley. “However, we do not want this to be a permanent change to how medical cannabis recommendations are given or renewed, as we love to see our patients in person because the staff and physicians at DocMJ really enjoy the face to face conversations and life changing benefits medical cannabis has on them.”
Fortunately – and unfortunately – new patients have to be seen in person still, notes Hundley.
“The unfortunate part is that there is a risk, with what is going on, to possibly spread the virus,” he says. “The fortunate part is we have seen so many patients and we know some of them have not seen a physician in awhile and ignore some clear signs of medical conditions that need immediate attention.”
Hundley assures that their medical assistants and physicians are able to catch these signs, as they have in the past, and either send them immediately to an urgent care/ER or refer them to their primary care physician to address the medical condition.
“This is another reason why we do not want telemedicine to stay as it is an ineffective way to give the best examination possible,” he adds.
During this pandemic, DocMJ has been sterilizing all of their equipment and wearing protective gear. They also make patients aware if they have any symptoms of the coronavirus to not come to their appointment and seek treatment at a nearby medical facility. If they have a follow up visit scheduled, they will reach out to the patients to book a telemedicine visit to minimize possible exposure.
DocMJ has recently passed over 100,000 visits. Last year, they also expanded to Ohio with five new locations while still providing the same quality care, experience and knowledge from Florida.
While there are some really good physicians with vast knowledge about medical cannabis outside DocMJ, Hundley says he has not met any other group on the scale of DocMJ with the same ideals and culture.
“At DocMJ, we truly care about the wellbeing of our patient whether or not we give a recommendation,” he says. “At times we see patients who may not qualify but still get to speak to a qualified medical professional for free. If someone books with us and does not receive a recommendation we refund them 100% of their money back. This is not a gimmick, we don’t give recommendations to everyone but we do however give a compassionate consultation to everyone.”
The reason for refunding patients they don’t give recommendations to is so that both parties, the patient and the doctor, do not feel any pressure in recommending or not.
According to Hundley, the physicians at DocMJ are there because they believe that medical cannabis can help manage their symptoms for the conditions established by the State of Florida.
“I believe the reason why we are the largest group is because of the passion we have throughout DocMJ to help others.” he says. “Together at DocMJ we have more experience in medical cannabis recommendations than any practice out there, we have been around since the amendment for medical cannabis passed. We are also one of the most affordable with payment plan options for those on a fixed income. I like to think we are a good example of the phrase ‘often imitated but never duplicated.’”
For more information, visit docmj.com.