Memorial Health System has launched a major expansion of its telehealth services. The services began in a limited basis at the end of April over concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic. With hospital clinics now open, the telehealth options will continue to provide a safe and convenient method to see a physician when an in-person visit isn’t required.
Dr. Anthony Griffin, based out of Passavant Area Hospital and a member of Memorial Physician Services, says that it offers patients a user-friendly experience to see their doctor from a smart device. “We’ve offered telehealth visits, which is basically a two-way video with patients, either using a laptop or in our case, cellphone. It’s a way to see patients without them leaving their home, and we can assess them visually. We can talk to them, and, if appropriate formulate a plan. Now, this all came about because of the COVID-19 concerns, and people didn’t want to leave their house because of the social distancing concerns. It’s kind of taken off because of that. People don’t want to leave their home if it’s not necessary. Now, over the past two weeks, we have opened our clinics back up so we are seeing patients in person. We are kind of doing a combination of both telehealth and in office visits.”
Griffin says that people still need to come to the doctor’s office now for specific reasons and major ailments. “If we haven’t seen folks for awhile or they are a new patient and we need to assess them for the first time, they need to come in the office to do that. I think it’s important to see them personally if it’s possible. If it’s something we can do via phone be it a medication check, assess for their psychiatric well-being – we will do it by telehealth if that’s their preference.”
Visits are conducted via Microsoft Teams, an online platform that complies with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The telehealth options have been expanded to included Memorial’s Weight Loss & Wellness Center and other outpatient programs including home hospice. Memorial has offered a different form of telehealth visits since 2017 through MemorialNow. The service is available 24 hours a day and involves nurse practitioners interacting with patients via two-way messaging to treat minor symptoms.
The health system’s expansion into real-time video visits with physician offices is part of a nationwide trend because of advances in technology and has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Video visits are covered by health insurance with the same co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses as in-person visits. Video visits now are offered to patients throughout Memorial’s ambulatory care network.