SAN ANTONIO — Despite the assurances of local health authorities, some people continue to have their concerns about going to the hospital out of fear of the novel coronavirus.
Now, Baptist Health is offering a new service that opens up access for patients to receive emergency care remotely.
Especially during these uncertain times, there can be anxiety among those feeling sick and second-guessing whether it’s appropriate to visit the hospital.
“Early in the pandemic, we realized that a lot of patients were no longer coming to the emergency department out of fear of COVID or getting infected,” said Dr. John Tully, medical director of Baptist Health’s emergency departments.
Baptist Health’s mission quickly became finding some way to evaluate patients safely and remotely.
Tully said the popularity of video conferencing programs like Zoom made coming up with a solution a bit more obvious.
“We started looking at Tele-ER services,” Tully said.
People worried about their health can call Baptist Health and consult with a nurse. After collecting insurance information, the nurse then schedules a Tele-ER visit.
That’s when the physician attempts to diagnose the patient’s condition and decides if further action is needed.
“It provides a service to the patient where they have an opportunity to be cared for and be seen without coming to the emergency department," Tully said. "We’re identifying patients that really need to come into the emergency department to be evaluated and treated who might have otherwise stayed at home and just suffered through their illness."
He emphasizes that the community help is there, be it over video call or in-person.
“They don’t want to take away from the care of COVID patients," Tully said. "They’re concerned about their neighbors and things that have COVID and they don’t want to take away from the resources, but we have the resources to care for both and, if they need emergency care, we see to them."
About 80 people have used the Tele-ER program for a variety of health reasons.
The Tele-ER service is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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