Telehealth technology improves healthcare access
Telehealth services are quickly becoming an essential component for physicians to treat patients as we all look for ways to social distance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many conditions can be seen using telehealth, according to Danielle McLurkin, M.D., Chief Health Officer and Family Medicine physician with SWLA Center for Health Services.
“We’re expanding our health care options to include telehealth in all of our service areas — Lake Charles, Lafayette, Crowley, SOWELA/Lake Charles and Oberlin,” McLurkin said. “In many cases, patients are seen more quickly than in a traditional office visit allowing them to have their questions answered, get their diagnosis and treatment plan in place, and hopefully begin feeling better in a more timely manner.”
In using telehealth, the physician and patient connect virtually using video technology on their computers, tablets or phones. Patients can explain their symptoms and concerns, physicians can visually exam and provide a diagnosis.
Telehealth was on the radar and utilized by some health care providers but it shifted into hyper-drive during the pandemic, with virtual visits nationwide up 50 percent in the last few months.
SWLA Center for Health Services began telehealth for behavioral health services in November of 2019. They launched telehealth for acute and wellness medical visits in late March and added telehealth dentistry in late May.
Recently, the center was awarded a $793,274 grant from the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau for upgrades and expansion of their telehealth program.
“We are ecstatic to receive the telehealth grant to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said JayVon Muhammad, chief executive officer of SWLA Center for Health Services.
“Recently, nationwide news highlighted the grim news about health disparities in the African American community and connected those dots with health disparities and poorer outcomes for African Americans who are exposed to COVID-19. Our funds will be used to remotely monitor our patients, providing them with more comprehensive services.”
The grant will be used for remote patient monitoring platform and equipment, telemedicine carts, laptops to screen and treat patients including those with COVID-19 and chronic conditions to ensure they are maintaining glucose levels, controlling high blood pressure and otherwise keeping healthy.
Telehealth is available for new patients as well as established patients.
“This brings the doctor right to the patient, without the patient having to leave their home and travel to the doctor’s office,” said Jessica Jolly, chief operating officer with SWLA Center for Health Services.
“It’s more convenient and in many cases, provides patients with better access to a physician. For patients in rural areas, and for older patients who are less mobile, it can be difficult and time consuming to get to a doctor’s appointment.
“Telehealth is much easier and allows even better access to a specialist. We’re able to provide more frequent checks on homebound patients. Many times, patients are able to be seen the same day.”
While a virtual visit isn’t optimal for every health concern, it can be helpful for treating many conditions, such as:
- Insect bite reactions
SWLA Center for Health Services provides telehealth for adults as well as children. Services include all areas of family medicine for acute and wellness visits, pediatric visits, oby/gyn, podiatry, behavioral health, counseling and dental care using virtual oral assessments.
“Physicians can take in a lot of information by the way a patient looks and responds, whether it’s in person or through a virtual visit. Are they breathing heavily? Do they seem in distress? As the patient is relaying their symptoms, physicians are assessing many things. In fact, 90 percent of a diagnosis is observation and taking a careful history,” said McLurkin.
Telehealth allows patients to receive thorough medical care while avoiding interacting with others and potentially putting their health and others’ at risk.
“By utilizing telehealth services, patients reduce the spread of any infectious diseases. This includes COVID-19, but it also includes general coughs and colds,” McLurkin explained.
To utilize telehealth services with SWLA Center for Health Services, visit www.swlahealth.org and click on “Register for Telehealth” using a mobile smart phone, tablet or desktop computer with a camera.