The Coronavirus has made the simple physician office visit complex. The threat of exposure to COVID-19 has led Speare Memorial Hospital to make virtual, online physician office visits a reality.
“The last place an older diabetic would want to be is in a waiting room with other patients,” says Dr. Ted Capron of Speare Primary Care. “The nature of medical facilities is that we congregate sick people in one place. During COVID-19 this puts everyone present at higher risk than they would be at home.”
Telehealth is the use of digital technology to allow patients and medical providers to practice social distancing. In response to COVID-19, regulators have waived prior rules about what software can be used for telehealth visits. Using a videoconferencing platform, like Skype, telehealth connects medical providers with patients without the patients leaving the safety of home.
Working with a multidisciplinary team, Dr. Capron evaluated the medical aspects of telehealth and was one of the medical providers who tested the telehealth software to determine the best option for Speare.
“Getting this project up and running has been a tremendous effort,” says Dr. Capron. “I am really impressed with how rapidly and smoothly this has been accomplished through the efforts of our clinicians, IT department, financial managers, and medical records staff.”
Speare has selected the free StarLeaf application to provide secure, two-way audio and/or visual technology allowing physician offices and patients to connect in the virtual world. All that a patient needs is a mobile device or computer with a microphone, camera, and an internet connection to download the app.
Unlike some apps, StarLeaf is a secure, encrypted software.
“We continue to maintain privacy as much as possible,” says Dr. Capron. “For example, we conduct the virtual visit in a private area, and patients are told the names and roles of everyone participating in the call from our end.”
Physician offices at Speare do not record the visits, and the history provided by the patient is documented in the medical record in the same way it would be in a face-to-face appointment.
Patients have expressed appreciation for being able to meet with providers during this pandemic.
“We have had overwhelmingly positive feedback from patients who have participated in telehealth visits,” says Dr. Capron. “They are really glad they can get care while practicing social distancing.”
To learn more about telehealth, visit https://spearehospital.com/outpatient-telehealth-visits/.