The healthcare industry has been incorporating ways for caregivers to virtually engage with consumers in remote locales for years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth use skyrocketed.
Our hospital, outpatient and Texas Health Physicians Group (THPG) teams worked around the clock to establish video consultations with consumers. This entailed connecting IT infrastructure across the system, identifying secure, reliable platforms that comply with HIPPA laws, setting up billing codes for virtual services, securing payer reimbursement, and training caregivers and staff.
Our hospitals also began using telehealth to connect care teams with patients' families when end-of-life decisions needed to be made and to allow loved ones to be part of that transition. Consumers needing outpatient support continued receiving therapy, treatment, education and rehabilitation virtually for continuity of care.
Because of high consumer satisfaction, Texas Health will maintain telehealth for select service lines, for efficiency and convenience.
Texas Health Breeze Urgent Care™
Texas Health opened the first of 20 urgent care clinics in North Texas in 2020 to provide a fresh, redesigned urgent care experience. With clinics open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 365 days a year, consumers receive easy, convenient, affordable care.
Consumers can book same-day or next-day visits through On My Way, an online tool that provides scheduling availability. Once they arrive at a clinic, they can use our Hello Patient app to notify staff they are ready to be seen.
Inside, consumers are paired with a concierge to avoid waiting in a crowded lobby with other sick people. A Texas Health nurse practitioner or physician assistant meets with them to diagnose conditions, answer questions and provide treatment. With an onsite pharmacy, patients also can meet virtually with a pharmacist and receive their medications within minutes.
The clinics offer up-front pricing and accept most major insurance plans. For those without insurance, we offer a flat-rate fee that includes medications obtained onsite. COVID-19 testing is offered to patients with symptoms, but these facilities are not community testing sites.
Mobile Urgent Care
Texas Health has an exclusive relationship with DispatchHealth, which delivers mobile urgent care services to consumers' homes or businesses. This service expands access to care in a convenient way and at a significantly lower cost than a visit to an Emergency Department. Caregivers can administer intravenous antibiotics, run electrocardiograms and perform other functions for people without transportation, the elderly or others in need of more convenient care.
Providing urgent care services in the home also helps health professionals identify social determinants of health that may be creating healthcare barriers and coordinate follow-up care. The service is covered by many insurance plans and costs about the same as traditional urgent care.
Open AllClose All
More than 850 providers and medical professionals at Texas Health Physicians Group (THPG) were in the early stages of enabling telehealth capabilities when the coronavirus spread. Its planning team soon realized that providers' only way to continue delivering care during the initial shutdown phase was virtually.
In one week, THPG's planning team ensured IT bandwidth and connectivity, delivered provider and staff training and set up scheduling capabilities within a virtual platform. Using a computer or a smartphone, consumers could consult with THPG providers remotely with video and audio functionality. While insurers covered the cost, those who were out-of-network or uninsured paid just $49.
These video visits provided continuity of care while keeping high-risk consumers, the elderly and families with young children out of waiting rooms. When it became safe enough to reopen to limited capacity, THPG created a virtual waiting room. Consumers received a text before their in-person appointment and could notify providers they were in the parking lot, where they waited safely until they were ready to be seen.
While both providers and consumers experienced some challenges early on, telehealth has streamlined efficiencies within the practices and increased patient satisfaction to an average of 90%. By the end of 2020, THPG providers saw 168,924 patients virtually – compared to just seven the year prior.
Self-Service Kiosk Helps Patients Fill Prescriptions Faster
At seven Texas Health hospitals and in all Texas Health Breeze Urgent Care™ clinics, consumers can fill many prescriptions through a self-service kiosk before leaving, avoiding an additional trip to a retail pharmacy.
A pharmacist consults with consumers virtually to answer any questions and fills orders within a few minutes.