USA Health recording thousands of virtual visits with new and established patients
MOBILE, Ala. (April 15, 2020) More than 1,250 USA Health patients took part in virtual visits during the five day period from April 6-10, 2020.
“Telemedicine visits allow us to continue to provide care for our patients who understandably are reluctant to leave home either for fear of COVID exposure or in some cases if they have active COVID illness,” explained Dean Naritoku, M.D., professor and chair of neurology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine. “Also important, is the safety of our healthcare workers. The use of telemedicine reduces potential exposures for them as well.”
Amid the COVID-19 crisis, "stay at home" policies have discouraged patients from visiting outpatient clinics for new and routine follow-up evaluations. Realizing the importance these visits play in the prevention and management of many conditions, USA Health quickly implemented virtual visits to fill this essential gap.
According to Shelby Smith, director of care access for USA Health, the success of the project illustrates how multiple departments and people with varying backgrounds can come together to achieve a common goal – to provide the best care possible for our patients. “Thanks to everyone’s efforts we are seeing a sharp increase in the number of virtual visits.”
“The urgency of the COVID-19 crisis required rapid integration of technologies into our existing patient workflow," Naritoku said. "This required a huge, dedicated effort from our clinicians and staff to adapt to these changes, and they are to be commended for this. Key people from each department also acted as hands-on tutors, facilitating workflow changes at every level – from the appointment desk to the clinicians and nursing staff.”
Another challenge was helping patients adapt to using the technology needed for visits, explained Naritoku, who recently took on additional responsibilities as the chief medical information officer for USA Health’s outpatient services. “Many patients had never used their computers or smart phones for teleconferencing. If needed, our staff walked many patients through setup to make sure they were prepared for a productive office visit.”
Providers and patients alike are enthusiastic about virtual visits. According to Naritoku, in many ways, the growing pains of delivering healthcare during the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated technological growth of healthcare in South Alabama – which in his words “provides opportunities to improve the healthcare experience in the future.”
To schedule a virtual visit, call your USA Health provider’s office directly or call (251) 434-3711 for a complete list of all USA Health outpatient offices. Request an appointment online at usahealthsystem.com/request-an-appointment.