With the onset of the COVID-19 health crisis, the dramatic shortage of personal protective equipment along with stay-at-home orders have limited the ability to deliver medical care, particularly for underserved populations who may not have insurance or a primary care provider.
Despite these changes, patients can still rely on the Mason and Partners (MAP) Clinics, a network of 10 no-cost bridge health care clinics in Prince William County and Fairfax County supported by the College of Health and Human Services at George Mason University. Thanks to the rapid deployment of expanded telehealth capabilities, the MAP Clinics can now directly combat the pandemic by screening for COVID-19 while helping their patients battle chronic conditions, treat substance use disorders, and address behavioral health issues such as anxiety and stress.
The MAP Clinic telehealth initiative is made possible by a $500,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Telehealth grant and a $25,000 gift from AT&T.
“AT&T firmly believes in the power of technology to connect patients with critical health care services and is proud to provide financial resources that support the expansion of the telehealth capabilities in the MAP Clinics,” says Garrett McGuire, regional director for external and legislative affairs for AT&T.
The nurse-managed MAP Clinics rapidly deployed HIPAA-compliant telehealth units to meet the demand of underserved communities, where there remains limited access to COVID-19 screening. Existing patients were transitioned to telehealth visits, and the clinics have coordinated care for 700 patients in the past two weeks. Each telehealth unit consists of a tablet pre-loaded with HIPAA-compliant apps, consent forms, and teaching packets to help the end-users at each site effectively screen for COVID-19 symptoms.
The expanded telehealth model and revised protocols allow MAP Clinic staff to use their limited personal protective equipment to treat the highest-risk patients. The MAP Clinics continue to serve their existing patients, walk-ins, and those referred by the Prince William Health Department in-person two days a week at the Manassas Park MAP clinic.
Telehealth visits, combined with in-person care, allows nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and social workers to connect with patients regularly to see how their medications are working and provide support, especially during this stressful time.
MAP Clinics also provide students pursuing degrees in health informatics, nursing, and social work with experience serving rural populations and deploying a fully operational telehealth unit.
“It has been amazing to see the MAP clinic team coordinate the transition to telehealth quickly and responsibly while also giving students the opportunity to continue their clinical learning during this time,” says Caroline Sutter, co-director of the MAP Clinics and associate professor of nursing at Mason.
The Washington, D.C. region is considered a “hot spot” for future peaks in COVID-19 cases, and the MAP Clinics are further expanding telehealth and training capabilities to meet expected surge in demand for testing and care.
“There are incredibly tough weeks ahead of us and we seek to engage our community and be responsive to their needs. And technology is our connector,” says MAP Clinics co-director Rebecca Sutter.
Michelle Thompson / April 14, 2020 / adapted from CHHS article.