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COVID-19 and telehealth: crisis drives innovation and expands care

From patient demand to COVID-19 legislative reform, more accessible and efficient healthcare has transitioned from being an added benefit to a necessity. Now more than ever, virtual visits with a provider and remote patient monitoring are essential – allowing patients to stay connected to their provider while improving patient engagement and reducing healthcare costs.

Prior to COVID-19, our medical groups – consisting of over 10,000 providers across seven states – were in the early stages of implementing telehealth services in some of our 973 clinics. But in just a few short weeks in March, our telehealth team, in collaboration with our local service area and medical group partners, took on the massive task of giving over 7,000 ambulatory providers the ability to safely conduct and correctly bill for virtual visits with their patients during the COVID-19 crisis. Just one month after go-live, we went from doing less than 1,000 telehealth visits a week to over 12,000 telehealth visits a day for both primary and specialty care across our Physician Enterprise.

Rapid deployment of telehealth solutions was a critical step in ensuring we could provide high-quality healthcare to our patients and community in the world of social distancing and beyond. Our initial goal was to maintain continuity of care for those who are sheltering at home so they don’t expose themselves or others to COVID-19, while enabling our providers to continue their clinical practice in a new way during this outbreak. But now as shelter in place orders are being lifted and we begin to resume face-to-face appointments and in-office procedures, we plan to continue to care for patients both in-person and virtually – enhancing our provider-patient relationships by meeting the patient where it’s most convenient for them and where they feel most comfortable.

I can’t emphasize enough how proud I am of our multi-disciplinary team for turning the seemingly impossible into the possible. Going live with telehealth across such a large and complex network of physicians, with over 30,000 caregivers and 15 million patient visits a year, in such a short amount of time, is an extraordinary achievement. Additionally, our providers and caregivers have stepped up to the task of quickly embracing virtual visits.

For example:

  • A psychologist shared that a patient with high anxiety was able to accomplish more in therapy through telehealth; feeling safe and comfortable in their home allowed them to work through things they hadn’t been able to work on previously.
  • A pediatrician helped a concerned mom who was scared to leave the house do a belly exam on her baby. She sent the mom and baby to the children’s ED, and the baby had its appendix out that night.
  • A nurse practitioner helped a 16-week-pregnant patient find a fetal heart rate, something she wasn’t able to do on her own with her at-home Doppler.

It’s been remarkable to see our providers adapt to new telehealth modalities, while keeping focus on delivering compassionate care to patients. While the COVID-19 crisis has put a strain on our communities and healthcare systems, implementing telehealth services has given us the opportunity to complement face-to-face visits and expand our delivery of care while continuing our mission of serving all – especially those who are poor and vulnerable.

You can learn more about our telehealth services here.