Coronavirus Relief: Stanford ramps up 'telehealth' to help protect patients, providers

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Stanford Health Care has ramped up its telehealth services to help care for emergency department patients amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The use of the technology is also giving providers a chance to conserve personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, which have become valuable in the fight against the deadly disease.

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"We now have iPads in almost every single room in every zone of our emergency department," said Stanford physician, Alexei Wagner. "COVID-19's putting an incredible strain on our physicians and nurse workforce, and so we're looking for any tool we can to help reduce unnecessary patient interaction and expose them to potential viruses."
In most cases, a physician will do the initial in-person exam, which includes listening to a patient's lungs. After that, virtual care can be used to help update patients on how they're doing and to see if they have any questions.

Furthermore, patients can use iPads to review discharge instructions. The process also helps reduce the use of PPE, which at times can lead to an impersonal, sterile experience for all involved.

"The virtual care really brings the human back into the patient room, so you can see a patient, empathize and relate, smile, the turning of the lips during a difficult conversation... that can come back virtually and that's been really exciting and important for the patients to see," said Wagner, who also serves as a clinical assistant professor.

In recent weeks, Stanford has also ramped up COVID-19 testing and now has the capacity to perform 2,000 tests per day through its drive-thru facility, as well as various inpatient and outpatient clinics. You don't need to already be a Stanford patient to receive the test, but you would need to register as a new one to be able to make an appointment.
Over the next one to two weeks, Stanford is projecting a surge in COVID-19 patients requiring inpatient or ICU status, which makes the recent implementation of the iPads even timelier.

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Wagner added: "We have about 90 beds at a time and we're looking at potentially scaling that up to 200 emergency department beds in various areas of the emergency department and hospital and potentially opening up a tent."

Stanford medical providers say they're doing their best to provide quality care under this extraordinary set of circumstances.

"We have every contingency plan in place right now for what to do depending on how the numbers will play out over the next couple weeks," said Wagner.

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