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Delivering Virtual Healthcare During COVID-19

20.04.2020, 22:12

Delivering Virtual Healthcare During COVID-19

Harris Health System has harnessed its telemedicine and virtual care platform to perform almost 20,000 virtual visits since mid-March.

As the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease wreaks havoc on the communities and healthcare systems in the United States, the company’s Virtual Care Program has become an essential tool for treating patients safely; as well as containing the spread of infection in hospitals and health centers.


Harris Health offered some telehealth care before the pandemic but its platform has quickly become a preferred option for its patients. Telehealth is the use of technology to deliver health services or information by using a computer, smartphone or tablet. This care alternative can direct people away from hospitals and health centers as providers treat the influx of coronavirus patients.


The company offers four types of virtual visits—video visits through MyHealth (the system’s patient internet health portal), video chat visits, telephonic visits and e-visits through the MyHealth (Epic MyChart) app. E-visits allow patients and providers to interact in a written format through MyHealth.


Today, virtual visits are being done across the health system at 38 locations by 756 medical providers. The team now averages about 1,750 visits a day.


Armed with a laptop, computer, smartphone or tablet, providers are able to virtually consult with patients for various issues, ranging from COVID-19 concerns to established appointments for primary care.


Dr. LaResa Ridge, interim medical director, Virtual Care, Ambulatory Care Services at Harris Health System, says:”This is the wave of the future. To see this being offered to our patients is amazing. We’re essentially providing modern day house calls for patients.”


Ridge recently had a patient perform a series of movements during a virtual visit to see if the patient’s lymph nodes were swollen or bothersome. He adds: “We’re teaching the patients a lot.


“I’ll ask them to rub their neck or ask them if they feel bumps or to pull their ear to help find out what their concern is. Virtual care forces us to think outside the box to diagnose patients.”


Initially, all patients who were referred to virtual care were being triaged through Harris Health’s Ask My Nurse (a dedicated nurse help line) and the patient appointment center that used an epidemiology screen for patients with COVID-19 symptoms that qualified them for a visit. In the future, patients will be able to schedule their own virtual visits.


Virtual visits, however, may not always be possible. Pat with chronic diseases and those who take certain medications will be required to have in-person visits.


But what of the future? Ridge says: “Telemedicine and virtual care is going to become a regular offering to our patients. Right now, it’s keeping people at home and safe, but in the future it will help those who may have transportation issues and aren’t able to get to one of our health centers for their appointment.


“The support for this program has been tremendous. From nursing to information technology, pharmacy and administration—this is something we needed to get done and we did. The necessity of this service during this pandemic drove us to accomplish great things.”



CAMFIL HVAC Filtration Solutions

Staff Reporter covers the latest news, trends and opinion from the facilities management (FM) and corporate real estate (CRE) sectors. The FM market is currently estimated to be worth USD 1 trillion annually and is projected to grow at a compounded annualised rate of approximately 5% between now and 2026.

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