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Salinas Valley Health Clinics Offering Telemedicine During COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Category: COVID-19
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Salinas Valley Health Clinics Offering Telemedicine During COVID-19 Pandemic

Media Contact: Karina Rusk

The push to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of COVID-19 has prompted clinics and health systems to pivot, making rapid changes to accommodate patient needs while practicing social distancing whenever possible. This necessary adjustment led Salinas Valley Health to implement telemedicine for many of its clinics. It was a rapid response.

Dr. Peter Oppenheim, Medical Director of Population Health Services for Salinas Valley Health and a family medicine physician at Salinas Valley Health Clinics Primecare in Salinas, sheds light on the push for telehealth.

“It took about four days to get Zoom on all of our iPads and get us going,” says Peter Oppenheim, MD. “It really was a direct response to COVID-19 as a way to make sure we could provide access to patients, and still keep other patients safe and healthy.”

To listen to an interview on this topic with Dr. Peter Oppenheim, Medical Director of Population Health Services for Salinas Valley Health and a family medicine doctor at Prime Care Salinas, click here.

Dr. Oppenheim points out that patients are appreciative that Salinas Valley Health is providing the service. He estimates that so far up to 80% of daily patient visits to Primecare have taken place via telehealth. The telemedicine visits vary by provider and patient needs on a day-to-day basis, but this option allows for more patients to seek care for concerns during this challenging time.

“It’s an opportunity for us to provide care to people who otherwise would have canceled their visits or not been seen,” he says.

Telehealth visits across the United States are booming as doctors and patients embrace distancing during the Coronavirus crisis. In March, there was a 50% surge of telehealth visits in the U.S. according to Frost and Sullivan, a research and consulting firm. If that is not impressive enough, analysts at Forrester Research say virtual healthcare visits could top 1 billion by the end of 2020.

While the surge in telehealth visits is impressive, not every situation can be resolved via telemedicine. For example, a broken bone or full physical exam still necessitates an in-person visit. However, many patient concerns can be addressed with this useful tool and video calls are preferred to a telephone call. Dr. Oppenheim says physical exams are important; however, if the physician asks the right questions the telemedicine visit will be just as successful.

“If they’re able to show you where things are, even before you put your hands on them. You have a good idea of what you’re looking for,” explains Dr. Oppenheim.

Smartphones, tablets, and computers help patients show and tell their health care provider about their issue. In-person follow-up exams may be recommended, allowing the doctor to confirm the diagnosis of an acute issue.

Patients living with chronic disease can use telehealth for updates about their condition. With baseline health previously established, patients can check in with progress reports and video appointments. For patients with chronic illnesses that put them at additional risk for COVID-19 complications, telehealth is a fantastic solution for many concerns.

Also, patients in the local Aspire Health Plan Medicare Advantage Program can benefit from telehealth outside of the pandemic. The annual wellness visit involves a survey of home safety and health risks plus a mobility check. Not only does it assist those with mobility and transportation challenges, but it also shows exactly what obstacles they face while aging in place.

Telehealth may work for you in many cases, especially as people worldwide seek to minimize, and eventually eliminate, this pandemic.

“If you take appropriate precautions and a reasoned response, I think you’re doing the right thing to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community, and I think that will help reduce the amount of time that we all have to quarantine and social distance,” says Dr. Oppenheim.

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