Ozarks Medical Center cares for patients through uncertain times
While we are all practicing social distancing and only venturing out to take advantage of essential services like gas and groceries – perhaps the most essential of all is being put on the back burner – and unfortunately becoming a detriment to patients.
The obstacles to seeking healthcare are real and significant currently. The state may be directing us to stay home, but that’s not the only reason people aren’t seeking healthcare – many are those who need it most. Missouri and Arkansas school children are all home and that means many parents are unable to seek in-person healthcare. Transportation is often an issue for rural residents, whether its because they do not have reliable transport or that a reduction in employment is affecting their gas budget.
Fear of exposure especially for our populations of older or immunocompromised patients is another real concern. If they seek treatment, do they risk exposure? Ozarks Medical Center (OMC) has been implementing procedures to help alleviate these concerns and to ensure the safe medical treatment of our community in a timely and safe manner.
OMC has recently implemented telehealth services across its various locations to reach their patients in need. A virtual visit is a high-quality virtual face-to-face video and audio visit allowing you to speak with your provider in a secure and personal way. OMC providers are utilizing a service called doxy.me which is easily accessible from a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. It is secure and private. If patients are uncomfortable with an online visit, they can request a simple telephone consultation.
Virtual visits had been available at select OMC locations but had not been adopted system-wide. Before the pandemic, OMC had been researching the best practices for its healthcare system and was close to implementation. The onset of the pandemic caused OMC to take immediate action and virtual visits are available now.
OMC Behavioral Health
OMC Behavioral Healthcare has increased telehealth appointments with some remote providers, but the percentage of their providers providing virtual visits has risen from about 10% to over 90% of their patients. Some patients do need to physically come in periodically, but the vast majority are checking in virtually. This is especially crucial because a large majority of their patients have chronic conditions that need to be managed.
Ada Green is Client Support Tech at OMC Behavioral Healthcare who contacts patients to confirm appointments. She says the response to the telehealth appointment has been incredibly positive. “You mean I sit in my pajamas with my cup of coffee and have my appointment over the phone,” exclaimed a patient. “Many of our patients thank us when I call to confirm their appointment,” said Green. “They say that they feel respected and cared for by us.”
An additional benefit has been in the decrease in no-shows. The incidents of patients not showing up for their appointments have dropped by approximately 30%. The convenience and ease of the service remove so many obstacles to care.
If you are experiencing emergent symptoms or if your primary care provider recommends you visit the Emergency Department, there are procedures in place to have you seen quickly and safely.
“This is the time when we all must do our best to stay healthy,” said Dr. Curtis Horstman, Director of the OMC Emergency Department (ED). “We are seeing patients in the ED that are waiting too long to come in because they are fearful, resulting in conditions that are worse than if they had come in at the start of their symptoms.”
When patients check in at the OMC Emergency Department registration desk, they are asked a series of screening questions to ascertain if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and their temperature is taken. If a patient answers any of the screening questions positively, and/or is exhibiting symptoms, they are immediately masked and taken to a private exam room.
All patients visiting the ED are immediately taken to a private exam room where they wait in a sequestered environment to be examined. Nurses and doctors enter exam rooms wearing the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to assess and treat patients. Patients are either admitted or if they are considered the “walking well” and don’t need to be admitted, they are immediately escorted out of the ED.
OMC continues to operate to meet the needs of the communities they serve. These proactive steps are put in place to limit the possible transmission of COVID-19 and other viruses.
OMC will continue to provide care to all who seek treatment at their facilities.
For patients who do not have a primary care provider or have COVID-19 questions after business hours, please call the OMC 24-hour hotline at 417-505-7120. When calling the hotline with symptoms, a nurse will assess you and make a recommendation on your next step in care.
OMC Family Medicine clinics remain open for virtual visits and urgent needs. Please call your OMC family medicine clinic for easy instructions on how to set up a virtual visit.
Pictured: Ozarks Medical Center Emergency Department staff
Pictured: Dr. Christopher Cochran, OMC Internal Medicine, conducting a virtual visit with a patient.