Many healthcare needs have taken a backseat due to closed clinics and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, but patients and providers are finding other ways to connect. Instead of seeing them in person, patients are maintaining relationships with their doctors virtually. For example, organizations have reported that patients are using video visits in Epic’s MyChart 100 times more frequently than they did at the beginning of the year.
“Personal interaction is really important for our older patients who are isolated at home, so video visits are especially helpful,” said Dr. Amy Crawford-Faucher, a family medicine physician at Allegheny Health Network. “Research has found that social isolation is on par with smoking and physical inactivity as a risk factor for poor health outcomes, so every opportunity to connect is valuable.”
Patients can use virtual care in several ways — to communicate with their doctor or care team using secure messages, participate in video visits, check symptoms, answer questionnaires, upload information directly from connected devices, and more. Virtual care interactions become part of the patient record. For example, home monitoring data such as blood sugar, heart rate, and blood oxygen level is filed to the patient’s health record and if symptoms worsen, clinicians can quickly reach out to check in.
More than 800,000 people downloaded MyChart in March for virtual care. That’s more than double compared with the same period in 2019. The app is being used in place of visits that would normally happen in person, such as pediatric check-ups, cardiac rehab, and behavioral health.
“Virtual care gives patients control, and that’s particularly important right now. When so much is out of our hands during this crisis, our goal is to help people feel a real connection with their doctors,” said Sean Bina, Epic’s VP of Patient Experience. “Patients have a resource to get help when they need it, even when it can’t be in the clinic.”