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Volunteer-Run Free Clinic Stays Open to Serve Patients During COVID-19

Epic software provides a lifeline so volunteers can care for uninsured patients remotely

William Claridge, MD, brings decades of valuable clinical experience to his work caring for patients at the Volunteers in Medicine clinic in Bend, Oregon. Like most of the clinic’s 200 volunteers, Dr. Claridge is over 60 and at higher risk of COVID-19 complications. The clinic, part of a nationwide network of 92 Volunteers in Medicine clinics, installed Epic in January in partnership with St. Charles Health System. The software became a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing volunteers like Dr. Claridge to care for patients remotely.

The clinic serves an uninsured population of primarily Latinx patients. The ripples of COVID-19 hit especially hard in this community, where many lost jobs in the hospitality and tourism industries.

“Our patients face barrier after barrier, and COVID-19 just piled on,” Dr. Claridge said. “Using Epic allows us to meet with our patients virtually and helps us coordinate care across Central Oregon by linking providers, hospitals, and laboratories.”

Many patients don’t have the technology to do video visits from home, so Volunteers in Medicine flipped the script. The clinicians stay at home, while patients are offered a private room in the clinic to meet with their provider virtually. The patient, interpreter, and provider all join the visit, and the provider charts in Epic remotely. Staff and providers stay connected using Epic’s Secure Chat, which allows them to coordinate patients’ care while they’re all working in different locations.

“We would have had to shut down completely had we not been on Epic,” said Kat Mastrangelo, executive director for the Volunteers in Medicine clinic. “Instead, we’ve been able to continue to serve both patients and volunteers at this critical time. The volunteers want to be here, and our patients need them.”

Read more in Healthcare IT News and Cascade Business News.

To learn more about the national network of free clinics, visit the Volunteers in Medicine website. Epic community members can learn about virtual care options in the Managing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) with Epic documentation on the UserWeb.

Photo: Volunteer clinicians care for a patient at the Volunteers in Medicine clinic in Bend, Oregon.