Dr. Mark Prete, Hartford HealthCare Senior Vice President and Hartford HealthCare Medical Group President, discusses virtual health’s role during the COVID-19 pandemic and also how it’s being used by medical specialists in a March 26 visit with WTNH, Channel 8.
Here is an edited version of the interview:
Q: Hartford HealthCare built a virtual-health platform to identify patients who qualify for COVID-19 testing. How is that going so far?
A: It’s actually going great. We started the platform on March 17 and we aligned with our COVID hotline. So we took the COVID hotline and started adding virtual visits to answer questions about testing. Today, we’ve gotten 1,500 telehealth — we call them virtual visits — done. And that allows us to really screen patients who need testing.
And since that time we’ve also created two other channels. One for all of our primary care doctors, which is about 200. Our specialists are being rolled out this week as well. And we also have a partnership with GoHealth, which is also doing telehealth.
Q: And are people responding to it? That sounds like a very good number.
A: Well, it’s actually accelerating. Besides the 1,500 we’ve done through the COVID hotline since we’ve rolled it out to our primary care doctors and our specialists, we’ve already scheduled 1,000 a day and I think we’re going to get up to about 2,000 a day because it allows an encounter with your doctor that is integrated with your medical record.
It also allows for a video conference. And so, it really is a good way to do this in this setting. But I’ll tell you, I think after we’re through this crisis, virtual health is here forever. It really does provide a benefit to patients.
Q: It’s really been amazing to see people adapt to it. What about specialties? Are they doing virtual visits too?
A: They, are in fact. It started this week. Most of our specialists — we have 500 or 600 of them — will be up on the platform by the end of the week. We’ve already had great success with our cardiologists, our cardiovascular surgeons, our vascular surgeons and general surgeons. They’re using it, not just for COVID because that tends to be primary care-based, but they’re using it for post-op visits, for follow-ups and now for consults. So it’s really kind of amazing.
Q: What about urgent care? Can that be done now through virtual visits?
A: Yes, with virtual health we don’t want to replace an emergency visit or something that’s serious, but it can accommodate a lot of urgent complaints. With our partnership with GoHealth, they’re poised to do this as well. There are many things that can be handled through a virtual encounter with your provider.
Q: Tell us how a person can get a COVID-19 test through Hartford Healthcare.
A: It’s through the COVID hotline (860.972.8100 or, toll-free, 833.621.0600). That provides you access to nurses who screen and then, if indicated, a virtual health visit is scheduled. Then we can screen patients for the need for testing. The primary care doctor is another source of access. They will determine whether that visit can happen in person or virtual.
Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.
For more information about Hartford HealthCare virtual health visits, click here.
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