Special to the Journal
Telemedicine allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients at a distance using telecommunications technology, such as a smartphone or computer. As we fight the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine has quickly become an essential tool in our health care arsenal. The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC), like other medical providers across the commonwealth, is moving swiftly to increase telemedicine access.
“Telemedicine allows us to continue to provide high-quality care to our patients during this pandemic while minimizing exposures,” said Laura Rogers, EBNHC Chief Information Officer. “We can treat people who are most at-risk for COVID-19 while they stay safely at home—and we can accommodate the essential stay-at-home orders that we should all be following right now. EBNHC patients who might otherwise miss important or routine appointments can continue to be monitored by their doctor’s office without having to leave home.”
Prior to the pandemic, only a tiny fraction of EBNHC patients were being seen through telemedicine. That changed on March 15 when Governor Baker signed an executive order that dramatically increased the potential of telemedicine by requiring commercial insurers to reimburse providers for telemedicine visits and relaxing certain regulations. Two days later, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) broadened access to Medicare telehealth services so that beneficiaries can receive a wider range of services from their providers without having to travel to a health care facility.
Now that these barriers have been reduced, the use of telemedicine is skyrocketing at EBNHC and medical facilities across the country. Over the last two weeks, EBNHC provided more than 6,000 telemedicine visits, with 640 occurring on the busiest day. Video conferencing launches this week, which will significantly enhance the telemedicine experience for patients as well as providers.
Do you need to schedule a telemedicine appointment with your primary care provider? Did you miss an appointment that needs to be rescheduled? If so, call 617-569-5800 to schedule a telemedicine appointment. This is especially important if you have a chronic or a behavioral health condition. You should be treated if needed, especially during this public health crisis.
Any EBNHC patient who has fever and flu-like symptoms or has had a possible COVID-19 exposure should not come to the health center. Instead, call the health center at 617-569-5800 for phone screening. If appropriate, you will be given instructions on how to get tested.
Recently, Mayor Walsh announced the launch of two online dashboards that allow Boston residents to see the number of COVID-19 cases in Boston and throughout the state. The dashboards are part of a suite of digital tools available to residents that includes a texting service in six languages, online city services, and frequently updated resources and factsheets. Visit www.boston.gov/coronavirus.
For as long as it takes, EBNHC will continue working with local and national public health officials to ensure the safety of our staff, patients, and members of the communities we serve. EBNHC has partnered with Independent Newspaper Group to bring you this content, which also appears at ebnhc.org/COVID19 and on our social media channels.