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Adventist Health’s Virtual Visits Allow Patients to Access Their Doctor Safely from Home

Clinics, Community Needs, Epidemic In an effort to serve the community’s needs and protect staff and the community, Adventist Health clinics in Fort Bragg, Willits, and Ukiah are now offering virtual visits to provide uninterrupted care during these unprecedented times. Through on-demand virtual visits, patients can receive medical guidance and get care without leaving the comfort and convenience of their homes using video and audio through a computer or mobile device. Virtual visits can be vital to cope with the growing surge in demand for medical services – and to keep health workers and patients safer. So, instead of sitting in a waiting room, patients can see their doctor using video from their computer or device from home.

Providers are using virtual visits to screen for COVID-19 cases, handle routine visits and the chronically ill. They’re also proving effective in comforting people who are anxious about the outbreak, the so-called “worried well”. Virtual visits also help save masks, gowns and key supplies, which are in high demand for dealing with the pandemic to protect staff and patients.

Anny Wu, DO, a rheumatologist shares that virtual visits benefit her as a physician as well as her patients, “Virtual visits are certainly not a substitute for in-person clinic [A person using a computer sitting on top of a desk  Description automatically generated] appointments. However, for established patients, a virtual visit done right is a chance to improve the physician-patient relationship. We want our patients to know that while our office may be physically closed, we’re still here to care for them. Being able to connect with them to help answer their questions during a stressful time is so important.”

“Virtual care makes accessing doctors and providers even easier with technology-enabled, easy to use tools to connect patients with providers. Patients can access care from the comfort of their home with less risk of exposure,” said Jason Wells, president for Adventist Health in Mendocino County. “We’ve always been about living our mission and responding to our community’s needs however way we can. Our hope is that by making care more accessible and creating fewer barriers, more people will seek care, especially those who may be worried about COVID-19 and those who do not have transportation.”

“During these unprecedented times when anxiety is high, we are proud to be able to serve our community and help ease their minds, while still promoting physical distancing and protecting our staff and community, especially the elderly and those who are at high risk,” Wells adds.

Patients are embracing this approach, in part to avoid going to clinics and waiting rooms. Limiting face-to-face encounters also helps protect health workers and support staff who are concerned about their exposure to infected patients who may be visiting clinics.

So, how does it work? To participate in a virtual visit, a patient just needs a smartphone, tablet or computer with a working camera and microphone. The provider sends an email with a link for the scheduled visit which utilizes Microsoft Teams, a technology-enabled, easy-to use secure platform, which is available as a downloadable app or web-based app. It’s simple and easy to use. Adventist Health asks patients to log in 20 minutes prior to the scheduled visit so they can answer some intake questions regarding medications and health history. Once the visit begins, the provider and patient can see and hear each other as if they were in the same room.

“There are other medical needs besides COVID-19 and our community needs to know they can see their doctor safely from their home without having to go to a clinic,” commented Wells.

Adventist Health’s clinic staff is reaching out to patients to reschedule appointments as virtual visits if possible. Patients who have a scheduled in-person appointment with a provider can also request to have their appointment rescheduled as a virtual visit by contacting their doctor’s office.

Adventist Health clinics offering virtual visits in Mendocino County include primary and specialty providers, such as:  pediatrics, family medicine, cardiology, behavioral health, general surgery, internal medicine, orthopedics, otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat), pain management, pulmonology, rehab services, rheumatology and urology.

Virtual visits are covered by most insurance plans. To learn more about virtual visits, how to get ready for your virtual visit, go to AdventistHealth.org/VirtualVisits or call 1-833-AH-WELLNESS (1-833-249-3556) contact your provider or physician.