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Inside look at telehealth in the medical clinic

Dr. Maurice Lee and his team continue care for uninsured patients during coronavirus outbreak

At St. Vincent de Paul’s Virginia G. Piper Medical and Dental Clinic, Dr. Maurice Lee begins a follow up medical appointment. He asks his routine questions: How are you feeling? Are you taking your medications? Are you having any pain? It’s the same level of care and personal medical attention he usually offers, except today he’s doing so via video call technology from his clinic office computer.

“When you’re in the middle of a visit, you really don’t know that there’s that big of a difference between the in-person visit and what we’re using as video chat,” said Dr. Lee, who is the chief medical officer of the charity clinic that treats uninsured patients.  

Since SVdP launched its COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) response, the medical clinic shifted entirely to telehealth so that its patients wouldn’t go without care in the middle of a pandemic.

“We’re really set up to see just about as many patients as we were before, just in a different format,” said Dr. Lee, who stressed the necessity of remaining open for care. “I can’t imagine someone running out of a blood pressure medication and risking going to the emergency room just to get a refill.” 

Shortly before a patient’s appointment, a medical clinic administrator will use programming to send a text message with an appointment link to the patient’s phone. When the patient clicks the link, they sign in online just as they would at the front desk of the clinic. After following prompts to grant access to their microphone and camera, they’re all set for Dr. Lee’s incoming call. 

Telehealth allows the medical staff to still offer centralized care with access to the clinic lab and resources. It also allows for 3-way calling with the volunteer physicians who continue to help see patients remotely from their own offices. Because of the medical clinic's telehealth model, patients continue to have access to the care they need—whether that’s getting a prescription filled or helping get their diabetes controlled. 

Of course, the team is also fielding a lot of questions about COVID-19. Without COVID-19 test kits, SVdP’s medical clinic isn’t able to test patients for the virus, but the doctors have already helped mitigate spread by encouraging patients with possible symptoms to self-isolate or seek emergency care if they’re experiencing shortness of breath and coughing. 

Most importantly, whether it’s COVID-19 care or not, the clinic remains open, and Dr. Lee can’t imagine it any other way. 

Existing patients and new patients without insurance and in need of medical care can call 602-261-6825. Messages will be returned within 48 hours.

The dental half of the clinic remains open for emergency visits only. Call 602-261-6842 for dental emergencies. All other non-emergency dental visits are postponed until further notice.

Want to support SVdP's efforts? Donate online today.