MEDICAL SPOTLIGHT: Health First’s Virtual Visits – The Doctor Will See You Now
By Health First // August 9, 2021
Virtual Visits provide patients the care they need – sometimes within minutes
After a broadband-busting 2020, Health First’s digital doctor’s appointment continues to provide praiseworthy healthcare with unmatched convenience.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a lot of medical developments. None more than telehealth. Before, only a fraction of Americans had made a telehealth appointment, now, according to one survey, almost 9 in 10 Americans want to continue using telehealth.
“COVID-19 pretty much moved our digital roadmap forward five years,” says Vincent Cervini, a healthcare access manager for Health First.
In 2019, the system successfully made more than 200 Virtual Visits happen for doctors and patients. At the height of pandemic restrictions last year, Health First was completing 1,500 Virtual Visit appointments each day. Even today, about 25% of appointments with primary care providers are Virtual Visits.
“It’s an option,” says Dr. Jayde George, Family Medicine Physician, Medical Director of Virtual Health for Health First Medical Group. “It’s an option most patients love.”
Dr. George’s patients can often get a virtual appointment quicker than an office spot while making that visit from the comfort of their couch – or continuing on with their workday right up to the moment their doctor can see them.
Technical issues are fewer and farther between than people might guess. Patient service representatives walk first-time patients through the visit before the appointed time.
“We anticipate the things that could go wrong and troubleshoot ahead of time,” she says.
For patients, Virtual Visits provide the care they need – sometimes within minutes – at a place they’d be anyway.
“It was a Saturday and my kids were home, but I wasn’t feeling well and it couldn’t wait until Monday,” says Kristine Clement of Rockledge.
“I scheduled an appointment with the Same-Day Virtual Clinic. Then, I took my kids to the park to play, and there I was, talking to the provider while my kids were busy on the playground. The provider placed a prescription, and I picked it up on our way home. How much easier can it get?”
“I’ve used it twice now, and for a busy mom of two, it’s very convenient,” says Lia Aylmer of Viera.
“The first time, they had an appointment for me within 20 minutes, and I did it with my 1-year-old on my lap from my dining room table. I was able to still take care of my kids’ nighttime routine while also taking care of myself. The second time I was in the Keys – so, I was sitting on the back porch, looking at the water and talking to a provider. I cannot express how convenient this is.”
Last year, the system helped tens of thousands of Brevard patients with about 170,000 Virtual Visits.
Now, Health First is providing specialty care Virtual Visits with services like cardiology, digestive, neurology and endocrinology to name a few.
In one hybrid scenario, Cardiologist Dr. James Ronaldson is taking appointments at a primary care office in Titusville from his office in Viera. With the help of a medical assistant, he can get a real-time electrocardiogram and auscultation (listening to the patient’s hearts and lungs), along with face time with the patient.
“Maybe there’s a single mother with palpitations who’s juggling two jobs and three kids. She says, ‘Maybe I have something wrong with me, but maybe I don’t.’ Would she like to see a cardiologist? Yes, but it’s not convenient. Now it is – and it means the difference between making the appointment or not.”
Brevard County is about 72 miles north-to-south, and Health First serves it and surrounding counties. Often, appointments are time spent by two people, Cervini says – the patient and the person driving them. All specialties do offer appointments by Virtual Visit.
“The convenience factor is unparalleled,” he says.
And Virtual Visits don’t entirely replace a traditional doctor’s office appointment. Neither patients nor physicians want that, says Dr. George.
“It is a standard of care to have an in-office visit at least once a year to allow us to perform a physical exam on our patients,” but “having the ability to perform a quick Virtual Visit allows patients to avoid missing more work or school time. The convenience factor is here to stay!”
To learn more about these services or to schedule an appointment, visit HF.org/Virtual or call 321.434.3131.