BREVARD COVID-19 UPDATE: Health First Virtual Visits a Hit with Patients; 4,086 Visits Conducted
By Space Coast Daily // April 8, 2020
Medical Group Conducts 4,086 in March, Providing Patients Care from Home During COVID-19 Crisis
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – With healthcare providers and government officials urging the public to practice social distancing and stay at home, Virtual Visits have quickly become a popular option for patients seeking routine medical care.
Health First Medical Group recently launched Virtual Visits for many different types of patient visits – chronic care, urgent care, wellness and more.
Patients can keep almost all of their normal office visits, including things like management of diabetes.
As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues, it’s served as a valuable tool for those who don’t want to venture out into the community and instead receive non-emergent care from the comfort of their own homes.
“We can figure out much more virtually than any of us ever thought,” Dr. Gerda Maissel, President and Chief Medical Officer, Health First Medical Group, said of being able to see patients via video.
“Patients love them. More than 90% of our providers have been trained, which means about 280 providers are offering Virtual Visits in all specialties and in primary care.”
The numbers alone show the surge in popularity. In March, Health First Medical Group (HFMG) conducted 4,086 Virtual Visits.
After COVID-19 concerns surfaced, what was a pilot program sprang into full-on action. Just look at the numbers:
• March 2-8: 22 visits
• March 9-15: 74 visits
• March 16-22: 317 visits
• March 23-29: 2,288 visits
• March 30-31 (just two days): 1,385 visits
The week of March 23 alone made up 56% of the group’s Virtual Visits for the entire month. On March 30 and 31, a total of 1,385 patients were virtually seen – 34% of the month’s total Virtual Visits.
Currently, HFMG providers are conducting 700 to 800 Virtual Visits per day, Maissell said. She suspects that number will rise to about 1,000 per day – or even more.
“It’s wonderful that we are able to make our patients’ lives easier and reduce their risk of exposure to infections by offering these Virtual Visits as an option,” Maissel said.
Dr. Jayde George, a family medicine provider with Health First Medical Group, echoed the success.
“I have a multigenerational family of patients. All have been experiencing upper respiratory symptoms,” Dr. George said.
“The daughter set up a Virtual Visit for her mother with dementia. The mom was so excited to see me, she kept saying, ‘I’m going to remember this!’ and couldn’t stop dancing. It made my day.”
Even older patients who might be more resistant to technology are embracing the trend – they “find it quite delightful that they don’t have to go out,” Maissel said.
Dr. Visalakshi “Visa” Srinivasan, Medical Director of Health First Aging Services, said her team is more confident in handling the technology-related fears of their senior patients.
“Some of the light-hearted moments I’ve had with my patients over the last few Virtual Visits have been a joy,” Dr. Visa said. “When I asked a patient to walk so that I could check her gait, her daughter followed her with the phone, and my patient with dementia gave me a virtual tour of her house, proudly.”
Insurance companies usually cover the cost of these visits with the same copay as an in-office visit. But for Health First Health Plans members, all Virtual Visit copays and cost shares are being waived during this worldwide pandemic to help ease some of their financial burdens.
The Virtual Visits haven’t just been an outlet to receive care – but a psychological boost for all involved.
“In these unsettling times, these moments remind us that no matter how difficult the situation is, we are blessed to be in this profession of caring and caregiving,” Dr. Visa said.
Virtual Visits can be scheduled seven days a week between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Patients should call Health First Medical Group Central Provider Scheduling at 321.434.3131 to set up one.
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