By Stephanie Wilding, Executive Director, Community health.
COVID-19 sent telemedicine on the fast track for widespread adoption, helping doctors manage and care for their patients, especially high-risk ones, during the national shelter-in-place ordinance. But for patients from low-income families, there was no such simple solution.
While the ACA makes health insurance accessible to a significant number of Americans, there are still millions of vulnerable people who depend on receiving care from free clinics like CommunityHealth. So when COVID-19 hit the US in March 2020 and strict shelter-in-place orders went into effect in the Chicago area, many low-income patients were unable to seek basic treatment for their pre-existing medical treatments. , ongoing or recently developed. needs.
At CommunityHealth, the nation’s largest free volunteer clinic, we strive to provide high-quality care to those who need it most, providing 15,000 medical and dental visits to thousands of underserved and uninsured Chicagoans each year. Up to 65 percent of our patients live at or below the federal poverty line, which is $ 24,300 for a family of four. Many also suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, which require ongoing medical treatment.
While most healthcare providers turned to telehealth solutions to continue providing care to their high-risk patients during the pandemic, we knew that many of our low-income families would not be able to download additional software prior to a virtual visit, somewhat common prerequisite for many telemedicine tools, or even having reliable high-speed Internet access.
What we needed was a solution that would work with any smartphone as seamlessly as possible and an easy-to-use telehealth solution that could be quickly deployed across our provider network. We also needed a simple platform for clinicians and, most importantly, an easy-to-use and accessible solution for our patients.
After evaluating several different telehealth solutions, we discovered that many of our physicians were already Doximity members and had successfully adopted Doximity Dialer for virtual patient visits. Additionally, Dialer made herself available to other healthcare professionals in the clinic’s network, allowing nurses and non-clinical administrative staff to coordinate with patients in a HIPAA-protected manner.
“Being able to just open an app on my cell phone and safely call a patient when I’m working remotely has been a game changer,” said Babs Waldman, MD, CommunityHealth volunteer medical director. “I can call them using the clinic’s phone number instead of sharing my own private cell phone number. And they don’t have to take public transportation or look for child care for their children who are learning online so they can come to the health center to register. “
Doximity Dialer proved to be an easy solution to implement, especially for a volunteer workforce of
providers with a wide range of experience and comfort levels with technology. Since many of our patients had limited access to video visitation via smartphones, Doximity’s audio calls helped mitigate problems with access to care, while maintaining patient and provider privacy.
Once we fully implemented the solution, we were able to eliminate a backlog of 300 patient visits, which had been postponed due to the pandemic. We’ve made nearly 4,300 telemedicine appointments, our no-show rates are down 24 percent, and virtual visits now account for 40% of all of our medical appointments in 2020.
Our staff is relieved that we can continue to serve our community and help low-income patients continue to receive the care they need, wherever they are.
Thanks To You