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Health Providers Relying on Tech to Control COVID-19

Posted at 7:13 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 21:13:01-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s major healthcare providers rely heavily on “virtual visits” to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Intermountain Health’s fifteen providers are taking on extra shifts with Connect Care under the threat of a widespread outbreak of COVID-19 in Utah.

“There is concern,” said Connect Care executive director Kerry Palakanis.

Since the weekend, the number of calls coming to Connect Care are up by a third.

On Monday, 30 people called in with concerns they may have coronavirus. Nine patients were serious enough to be evaluated for testing, according to Intermountain Health. The calls related to COVID-19 double each day, according to Palakanis.

“We run what’s called a heat map and we staff according to busier times of the day so we have more providers on,” Palakanis said.

Similarly, University of Utah Health’s Telehealth program has also seen a “dramatic increase.,” but did not provide specific numbers.

It’s important, according to infectious diseases director Todd Vento, who said technology is an effective buffer for the virus during a press conference Tuesday.

“We certainly want to minimize any potential exposure within healthcare systems of COVID-19 so we don’t have to deal with outbreaks within healthcare facilities,” said Vento.

When the first Utahn was suspected of having the virus, the first contact with healthcare workers was made through Connect Care. Then, staff contacted McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden to prepare for the patient.

“The McKay Dee staff did a good job keeping that person isolated from others so they wouldn’t expose others or healthcare workers, bringing them into the facility already thinking that they could have COVID infection, which they then later were shown to have,” said Vento.

Intermountain Health adds they are using telehealth technology to communicate with patients under quarantine in hospitals to prevent the attending doctors and nurses from getting sick.