The COVID-19 Pandemic has kept people apart and out of their usual routines. But JPS Health Network on Wednesday will unveil a telehealth system called JPS On-Demand Urgent Care that will allow patients and providers to again see each other face-to-face.
“Telehealth is about two things: patient safety and the continuation of care delivery,” according to Dr. Nadia Alawi, Vice Chair of Primary Care Operations at JPS. “Our national healthcare system has been disrupted by social distancing. What we’re doing is going to make sure that we’re able to provide care for our patients and it re-establishes face-to-face contact between patients and providers.”
When COVID-19 forced communities across the country to separate, JPS moved to conduct meetings between doctors and patients over the telephone whenever possible, limiting in-person visits to cases when there was no alternative. But on Wednesday, they’ll be able to log in through their computer, smart phones and tablets, according to Alawi.
Through the new system, doctors will be able to conduct their regular office visits, surgeons will be able to take a look at healing wounds after operations and patients can show their physician their concerns instead of only being able to describe them. Other capabilities will soon follow.
Kendra Honeycutt, Executive Director of Physician Enterprise at JPS, said the health network was ready to adapt telehealth quickly amid the difficult COVID-19 situation thanks to the fact that more than a year ago it began to offer telehealth services to team members to experiment with the technology.
“We’d already put in the ground work in order to provide a portal for employees,” Honeycutt said. “It essentially set the groundwork for what we’re doing now.”
While telehealth is an excellent tool for providers during the COVID-19 crisis, Alawi said it will also be very useful in the future after things return to normal. She said work responsibilities and lack of transportation often are major factors in preventing people from making it to scheduled doctor appointments. She estimated about 20 percent – or one in five of scheduled patients – fails to arrive for planned visits.
“COVID-19 or not, this was coming anyway,” Alawi said. “It was part of our 2021 plans. We have just had to expedite things a bit, which is great because we have more access to patients. There is no substitute for actually seeing your patient in person. I don’t think it will go away. But we’re always looking for ways to provide better access to care. This will help a ton with people who have transportation problems, child care or who can’t take a day off from work. I have had people do their entire telehealth visit while they’re at work.”
Alawi estimated that telehealth will decrease missed visits by 20-30 percent. “People will be able to connect a blood pressure monitor or a scale,” Alawi said. “There is even a pad that the patient can place on their abdomen and feel where the doctor is placing pressure.”
While much of the telehealth groundwork was laid more than a year ago, Honeycutt said enormous amount of work went into the rapid expansion of the system to meet the COVID-19 crisis.
“We had wonderful partners across JPS,” Honeycutt said. “Everyone stepped up to make sure this would operate smoothly. They did it because they know it’s important. We all come to work every day to make sure that patients get the care they need. We’re very excited to be able to be there for them in this way.”
- Hours: Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday noon to 6 p.m.
- How to Access it: Please visit www.jpshealthnet.org/on-demand to learn how to register for JPS On-Demand Urgent Care. Even if you don’t need to use it now, it’s best to register in advance so it’s ready to go when you do.
- What it covers: Seasonal allergies, common cold, conjunctivitis, influenza, minor burns or lacerations, rashes, sinus infection, upper respiratory illness and for adults only, asthma, back strains and sprains, bronchitis, painful urination, urinary tract infections and yeast infections.