GRAFTON—Grafton City Hospital has been implementing a new way for doctors to see patients, that will keep both healthier and safer.
According to Grafton City Hospital Chief Administrative Officer George Boyles, the hospital began utilizing their telehealth program at the end of March, and although this process of seeing patients is new to the facility, he shared it seems to be going very well.
“It has been a little bit of change in the way providers can care for their patients,” he expressed. “I am very excited about this program. If there is something positive that can come from this pandemic, I think that telehealth is it.”
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines telehealth as the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.
Telehealth limits exposure to infection for vulnerable populations and healthcare workers and expand the reach of resources to communities that have limited access to needed services, allowing patients to receive health services away from places where potential for contracting COVID-19 are high, such as hospitals, health clinic waiting rooms and private practices.
The term telehealth is fairly new but is gaining momentum and notoriety in the medical community, according to Boyles. He said since the pandemic’s start, he has received correspondence from the Centers for Disease Control and other health organizations almost daily urging hospitals and clinics to utilize this opportunity in healthcare.
He revealed that the process is one that allows patients to feel comfortable meeting with their doctor without having to leave their homes and come into the hospital, helping to reduce the possibility of being exposed to the Coronavirus.
“A lot of times a patient is coming to see a physician to get their prescriptions refilled and to just check in and this is a great way for them to be able to do so.” Boyles expressed.
As of right now, patients are being given to option to complete their regularly scheduled visit over the phone.
“The physician will have a list of patients and registration will call the patient to remind them of their existing appointment. While on the phone with registration, the individual will be asked if they would like to come in and see their doctor or if they would rather handle the visit telephonically,” Boyles revealed.
Once decided that a telehealth visit is appropriate for the individual, the physician will make arrangements to call their patients, to touch base on their healthcare needs. He said that the hospital has had many residents who have opted to utilize the telehealth program, so far.
“We of course are still encouraging patients that if they have a problem that is causing them concern or if they do not want to use the telehealth option, they should come into the hospital to have those concerns or issues addressed,” Boyles voiced.
According to Boyles, there is no additional charge for the service, and in fact, it may be more cost efficient in the long run. However, even though it was announced in March by Vice President Pence that health plans will cover telehealth interactions, out-of-pocket costs will vary depending on the type of patient insurance.
As of right now, Grafton City Hospital’s telehealth program only offers patients the phone option, but Boyles revealed that an app in is in the works to help expand on the service.
“I do have the IT folks here looking at a kind of automated system which would allow us to be more app-driven,” he disclosed. “That is nearing completion, so then we can offer that as a service going forward. It is just not in place yet.”
In addition, he shared that the Tygart Valley Rehabilitation and Fitness Center is exploring telehealth options for their physical therapy patients.
“I think that this is going to be a new way that we care for patients going into the future,” Boyles voiced. “This is just another tool in the toolbox that providers can use in the future and I think that it is only going to continue to grow exponentially. Telehealth is mechanism that we are going to aggressively implement for the future.”