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Going the Extra Mile to Help Patients in Rural Areas Get Started with Telehealth

Guthrie’s “white-glove” approach prepares patients for their first telehealth visits during COVID-19

Telehealth is an important resource for patients who can’t make it to the clinic – including those who are homebound, live in rural areas or, more recently, who are socially distancing due to COVID-19. To help people living in rural areas access care virtually during the pandemic, Guthrie in Pennsylvania began a “white-glove” telehealth service to give patients one-on-one support before video visits.

“We live in an area with a lot of older residents, including many who live on farms or other areas with slower internet connections,” said Dr. Phillip Snider, Guthrie’s CMIO. “They might not have had a video visit before, so we help get them set up. We want to make sure they have a good experience that resembles an in-person visit as much as possible.”

To get ready for a telehealth visit, staff call the patient 24 hours before the appointment. Staff help the patient download apps such as a video calling service, test the patient’s microphone, and make sure the patient can complete pre-visit tasks in eGuthrie, Guthrie’s version of MyChart. Staff also call patients 30 minutes before a visit to make sure the technology is working correctly and answer questions, just like they do when rooming patients in person.

When scheduling video visits, front desk staff see a score based on factors from the patient’s chart, such as whether the patient already has an eGuthrie account. The score helps staff prioritize extra outreach to patients who haven’t used video visits before or could need extra help. Staff then use workqueues in Epic to follow up with patients based on need.

“We hope that, even after the pandemic, our patients who live far away from a clinic feel comfortable using telehealth to stay in touch with their providers,” Dr. Snider said.

Epic community members can learn more about strategies for extending telehealth services from webinars on the UserWeb and from the Managing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) With Epic white paper, which is updated regularly with new build and workflows.