Family Medicine Ramps Up Virtual Visits
Caring For Patients In The Age Of COVID-19Robert | Family Medicine Mar 10, 2020
Dr. Kyle Knierim is a busy guy under any circumstance.
He’s a practicing family medicine physician, faculty member in the University of Colorado Department of Family Medicine, and a leading practice innovation researcher. But, now, his hectic routine is even more hectic thanks to the growing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.
The public health emergency has thrust him into a priority position of leading the immediate ramping up of virtual medical visits.
“Our family medicine providers need to be able to not only care for those infected with coronavirus, but also those with chronic health conditions who need to see their doctor regularly to stay healthy,” says Dr. Knierim. “Virtual visits allow them the flexibility to continue that continuity of care from virtually anywhere.”
Virtual visits allow doctors and healthcare staff to connect with patients online via their computers, tablets, or smartphones. Knierim says they won’t always replace an in-person visit, but they provide both medical providers and patients an alternative to both safely provide and access care.
“A patient may be wary of walking into a clinic and being around other sick people – or a medical provider may need to be home in order to care for a sick family member, “ says Knierim. “We just don’t know how things will shake out with the coronavirus, but we need to be prepared.”
Building capacity with virtual visits has been an ongoing process. Doctors and medical staff need to be trained, technology needs to be up-to-snuff and ready to go. Before the onset of the coronavirus, Knierim says progress was slow but steady – with a goal of eventually providing more than 380 virtual visits per clinic each month.
But, now everything is on the fast track.
“We are actively training the remainder of our clinical providers and staff,” he says. “We all understand that this is a top priority and we have to be ready.”
To date, Knierim says that 46 medical and behavioral health providers have done at least one virtual visit with a patient. But, that number is quickly increasing. In January, alone, they performed 89 and he says that they expect those numbers to grow exponentially as the current health crisis evolves.
Patients are encouraged to call their clinics to learn more about virtual visits and those patients within the UCHealth network may send a message through their My Health Connection account to easily and securely request a virtual visit.
“Our healthcare workforce needs to remain healthy throughout this crisis and our patients need the assurance that they will be able to access the care that they need,” says Knierim. “Virtual visits will help us to do our part to more successfully bring our community through this latest challenge and have us set up to be even stronger on the other side.”