EBNHC Wants to See You…at Home!

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 atexting service in six languages, online city services, and frequently updated resources and fact­sheets. Visitwww.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 atebnhc.org/COVID19 and on our so­cial media channels.

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