Health First Answering COVID-19 Questions, Treating Patients Through Virtual Visits
By Space Coast Daily // April 24, 2020
More than 1,000 Health First patients now use Virtual Options every day
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – When Health First launched access to its physicians via Virtual Options in March, only 22 patients opted to receive routine care from the comfort of their home over the course of a week.
Then COVID-19 happened.
In the days that followed, social distancing and stay-at-home orders made virtual care essential. Now, more than 1,000 Health First patients use this technology every day.
And even those who might have initially been leery are gratefully embracing it.
“This is an absolutely amazing tool for at-risk patients during COVID-19,” said a patient of Elena Barnes, MD.
“Please increase this ASAP so that patients can continue care with established physicians without risking exposure. As a patient with asthma and lupus, this visit was an absolute lifesaver. THANK YOU!”
Another patient who sees Kendra Ruckman, PA, echoed the sentiment: “I am so very grateful that I did not have to break my three-week quarantine! I was quite apprehensive about going into a medical facility. Thank you so very much for this alternative visit; you may have saved my life!”
Virtual Visits are just one part of Health First’s response to treat patients during this cautious and unsettling time.
“This has transformed how we deliver care,” said Dr. Douglas McKee, Vice President and Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Health First.
“We have options that are being used that are convenient to customers. They do not have to come in and potentially get exposed (to illnesses) in the clinic.”
Multiple digital enhancements have been provided to the public in addition to Virtual Visits, with HF.org shifting to a COVID-19 focus to bring the community the answers and resources they need.
Among these other improvements:
■ COVID-19 Symptom Checker: Utilizing artificial intelligence, patients seeking guidance about whether they might have the virus are guided through a series of questions. The tool then directs them to the recommended course of actions – whether it’s to visit the hospital, have a Virtual Visit or call 9-1-1.
■ Enhanced Physician Directory: The community can go to HF.org to find a physician for whatever condition they are seeking treatment for – even COVID-19. Those seeking care for a particular condition are funneled through a call center to book a Virtual Visit with a provider who treats that condition. COVID-19 is now a condition in the database.
■ Telehealth mental wellness line: Health First is providing, at no cost to the community, a resource line for those feeling the emotional burden of COVID-19. Residents can call a trained support line counselor at 321.434.7700. This free service to Brevard residents is available seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Health First has committed to providing these important services to the community, despite the financial challenges that come with COVID-19 temporarily shuttering some services for the public’s safety.
For example, the Symptom Checker was a $50,000 investment – but it’s something that provides peace of mind and direction to Brevard residents. Various teams have put in considerable hours of work for several weeks to make sure Virtual Visits and other solutions are available – stretching way beyond the cost of the actual technology itself.
The dedication, implementation, and technology has also offered a glimpse into the undeniable future of healthcare delivery. Digital services are no longer a competitive advantage – they’re a necessity that customers depend on.
“I felt very good about not having to go into the office during this pandemic, and my entire experience was great,” said a patient of Allen Condo, MD.
“I appreciate the professional and caring, attentive care I am always given.”
CLICK HERE to use Health First’s Symptom Checker
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