Hospitals have been using telemedicine more during the last few years. Now, many doctors and patients are forced to use the technology due to social distancing requirements caused by COVID-19.
Augusta University Health providers have been doing virtual screenings for people across Georgia and South Carolina. In the map below, the areas highlighted in blue show all of the places where someone has been virtually screened for COVID- 19.
Back in early February, we told you about a nearly $400,000 grant given from the USDA to the Medical College of Georgia, to pay for teleconferencing equipment for emergency departments in 5 rural hospitals. Dr. Matt Lyon says the program paved the way to for virtual COVID-19 screenings.
“Because we had built that infrastructure of telemedicine, we were also able to bring in a different platform one where we could talk to patients directly without having to go through an emergency department,” says Dr. Lyon.
Close to 4,200 thousand patients have been virtually screened for COVID-19 by about 400 providers since mid-March. These patients live in 66 different Georgia Counties and 22 different South Carolina Counties.
“We can refer people for screening in all the districts of Georgia 24 hours a day via telemedicine,” Dr. Lyon says.
Providers can take these video calls from just about anywhere, which helps increase accessibility and can also help if healthcare workers contract the virus.
“They can be at home,” says Dr. Lyon. “That’s the cool part about this is that it’s an internet based direct to consumer platform so they can be anywhere they have a stable internet connection and so our providers are doing that if they are on quarantine or because of educational experiences.”
While the coronavirus crisis has created a variety of negative immediate impacts for the healthcare system, Dr. Lyon thinks the challenges will also create some crucial positive changes in the future, specifically for rural areas.
“We’re going to see disparities between rural and urban areas start to decline because of the ubiquitous nature of telemedicine, telemedicine products, the ease of using this so I’m really excited about what the future is going to hold for telemedicine,” Dr. Lyon says.
CLICK HERE to download the app for the virtual coronavirus screenings.