WILKES-BARRE — Teri Ooms, executive director at The Institute for Public Policy & Economic Development at Wilkes University, this week said although there are technological downfalls and some aspects of medicine that are currently impossible to accomplish over a video chat, local telehealth practices have allowed patients to stay socially distanced from one another while simultaneously acquiring much needed care from their trusted healthcare professionals.
“Sadly, we are in the midst of a resurgence of COVID-19, this surge is just as if not more challenging than the original in the spring and taxes all essential workers, but most of all our health care systems and workers. we are going to discuss how our innovative health care systems and providers pivoted during COVID, used technology, and took care of so many of us through telehealth services,” Ooms said.
Telehealth, the practice of utilizing technology such as video and phone calls to allow for long-distance care, has been around for a while. While virtual medical visits are not new, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced medical professionals to add more and more virtual visits to their schedules and patients to rethink how they seek access to medical care. In an effort for members of the community to stay safe and socially distanced, many have turned to telemedicine to discuss problems with their primary healthcare providers as well as specialists.
Local Health Systems’ Telehealth Practices
Geisinger is just one of the health systems in the region using telehealth, or telemedicine, to provide care during the era of COVID-19. To schedule an appointment, patients can call a toll-free number to speak with a representative and see if their regular Geisinger doctor is offering virtual visits. During that call, a patient can schedule an appointment with a primary care doctor or a wide variety of specialists.
According to a published report, Geisinger averaged more than 1,000 video visits per day in April and May, resulting in more than 60,000 video visits during this time-frame, compared to 27 video visits per day prior to the pandemic.
To access the telehealth system, a patient needs access to a smartphone, tablet, or computer with a web cam and speakers, as well as high-speed internet capabilities.
Commonwealth Health Network is another regional health network that is currently utilizing telehealth services more frequently. Commonwealth Health is currently accepting both new and existing patients for telehealth visits and has a list available on their website of each of their providers that is currently providing telehealth care. Most insurance plans will cover a Commonwealth Health telehealth visit, especially if the visit is done over a video format.
In addition to these local health systems, many local, community-based health care providers are offering telehealth services and have modified their operations to use telehealth to continue providing patient services during…