As the clinical care director for MultiCare Virtual Health, Stephanie Cowan, DNP, ARNP, has a fresh appreciation for what it means to be nimble in the face of a public health pandemic. When the COVID-19 community spread took a foothold in Washington, the public concern and confusion around early symptoms of the virus was creating a storm that needed to be chased down quickly.
This is where Stephanie saw a clear path for Virtual Care to help flatten the curve. In order to do so, many people were about to try Virtual Care for the very first time.
Here, Stephanie pulls the curtain back on Virtual Care and shares her insights on how it can make a difference in both our community and individual health outcomes.
Q: What does Virtual Care mean?
A: Virtual Care is basically online care that is designed to be on-demand and conveniently accessible to meet the needs of our busy everyday lives. From any mobile device, you can quickly connect with a certified provider on a range of simple conditions and get a personalized treatment plan from the comfort of your own home. The Virtual Care experience is different than the typical healthcare experience we’re all used to, and we believe it’s a better way to get better.
Q: When should someone consider using Virtual Care?
A: Minor illnesses, such as colds, sinus infections and seasonal allergies, can often strike at an inconvenient time, and it might be difficult for you to leave home to seek care. When you’re not feeling well, getting to the doctor’s office can seem overwhelming, and that’s just one example of how Virtual Care is a great option for quick and easy care. Whether you choose the e-Visit or Video Visit, our certified providers can diagnose, treat and prescribe a prescription within minutes.
Many other concerns can be treated or triaged virtually. If we are unable to safely care for someone online, we can help direct them to the most appropriate place of care at a nearby Indigo Health or the emergency department, when necessary.
Q: When the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold in Washington, how did MultiCare Virtual Care manage the rapidly growing on-demand need for screening?
A: In the first two weeks of March, we saw more patients than we did in all of 2019 on our Virtual Care platform. As you can imagine, it required our team to be nimble and our providers really stepped up to the plate.
They have gone above and beyond to serve the demand, often taking Virtual Care visits in-between patients or while on break. Their effort is remarkable when considering the significant number of patients diverted from the emergency department, which helps conserve personal protective equipment and resources for those who really need more acute care.
Q: Given the high demand, why then, would MultiCare offer FREE Virtual Care e-Visits for COVID-19 screening?
A: We wanted to be on the frontlines of preventing spread and limiting exposure where possible. We decided to offer free e-Visits to people with COVID-19 symptoms (or potential exposure) to help ease their concerns, eliminate confusion, and eliminate cost or the fee for care as a barrier to getting screened. We were also able to direct people to appropriate testing sites at a nearby Indigo Urgent Care, rather than overload emergency departments.
Putting people first is at the core of our mission to serve our communities with accessible and convenient care.
Q: What does the future look like for Virtual Care?
A: Connecting with healthcare online is becoming more mainstream as our individual needs for ease and access continue to align with our busy schedules. What’s even more beneficial for consumers is our online care is connected to our Indigo Urgent Care, the bricks-and-mortar part of care. We’re able to help triage and guide people to the best place to get care, safely and quickly.
And at a time when social distancing is necessary, patients can receive the care they need, from the comfort of home, 24 hours a day.