Feeling mildly sick? Baylor Scott & White encourages app over ER
When virtual healthcare options began several years ago it was designed in large part to be a convenience.
But as COVID-19 infections continue to spread across the state at a high rate local medical officials say using the digital options is not only convenient but it’s critical.
Dr. Ashis Barad, medical director of virtual specialty care services at Baylor Scott & White Health, said emergency rooms across its system, including Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Waxahachie, are being flooded with patients who could be getting their health concerns addressed online.
“Right now we’re seeing people with mild symptoms or even people who are asymptomatic going to the ER to get tested,” Barad said. “That keeps people from getting the appropriate, timely care that they need.”
Barad added that people who may not have COVID-19 are putting their health at risk by being in a room with people who do.
Instead Barad encourages people to visit bswhealth.com/COVID19 or use Baylor Scott & White’s MyBSWHealth app, which can be downloaded by texting BETTER to 88408. Once the app is downloaded people can access a variety of tools, such as a free e-visit. The e-visit consists of a series of questions the patient can answer to determine next steps.
“So if someone feels like they may have COVID symptoms they can have an e-visit to direct them to the right level of care,” Barad said. “We want people to stay away from the ER if it’s not needed. We want our staff to be engaged with the patients who are the sickest.”
Once a patient who uses the app is diagnosed with COVID they will be enrolled in the home monitoring digital care journey, where they will receive quarantine instructions, daily symptom checks, dedicated care management and telehealth visits.
“So if you are diagnosed with it you’re not on your own,” Barad said.
App users can also participate in a video visit with a doctor. The video call is a secure communication through the patient’s phone or computer where the doctor can recommend and prescribe medication and a treatment option based on the symptoms.
There is a cost for this service, but Barad said in many cases it’s covered by insurance.
Barad said people do not have to have previously seen a Baylor Scott & White doctor to use the app.
“A lot of times you have to be a patient to use the service,” Barad said. “But that’s how we’re different. It’s available to all Texans.”
Barad said video visits are nothing new for Baylor Scott & White as it has been offering the service since 2014. In fact Barad said he was the first doctor with Baylor Scott & White to conduct a video visit with a patient, who had previously had to drive nearly seven hours and stay in a hotel for an office visit.
“Why do that when you could have an old-school house call?” Barad said.
He said having offered video visits since 2014 it made it easy for Baylor Scott and White to begin using them in March of 2020 when the COVID-19 cases really began to surge.
“Pre-pandemic we might have gone the whole year offering a couple of hundred video visits,” Barad said. “But during the pandemic we’ll do approximately 3,000 a week.”
For more information go to bswhealth.com/virtual-care.