by Beth Cloyd, Chief Nursing Officer, BANYAN Medical Systems

The World Health Organization (WHO) has now deemed the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic. (A pandemic is an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area.)  Fear and panic add undue stress. Many experts are noting that like the flu and other viruses, coronavirus is seasonal, and they are expecting things to calm down in the warmer months.

Until then, knowing the facts and putting proper measures into place both organizationally and personally can help mitigate the spread of this new disease. The Centers for Disease Control website provides authentic, correct and up-to-date information on coronavirus. We recommend checking this website on a regular basis for the latest information.

Washing your hands and keeping them off your face are two of the most basic ways to protect yourself from any virus, including coronavirus. Experts recommend washing your hands for a full 20 seconds with soap and water. Hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol is good to have on hand but it’s not a replacement for soap and water.

Staying away from crowds is also highly encouraged. If you think you are sick, health officials are requesting that you stay home and call your healthcare provider first for recommendations on what to do before heading to the clinic. It’s important to not just show up. This allows the clinic to prepare for your arrival. Health officials are also requesting that you stay away from the emergency room unless absolutely necessary.

So what’s a person to do when you are concerned and need help diagnosing your health situation in a scenario where you’re discouraged to get in your car and head over to the doctor? Consider using telemedicine, an effective way to get professional medical care while keeping human interaction to a minimum. In the case of COVID-19, trained medical professionals will be able to provide patients with the right guidance as to their situation and recommended follow up, whether physical or virtual. In fact, telemedicine is so critical to reducing the spread of illness that Congress recently allocated $500 million for telemedicine services.

There are many ways to access a physician through technology. Your healthcare provider may offer access through a patient web portal or medical mobile application. Most major health plans provide apps that allow you to schedule a telemedicine visit right from your smartphone. Some healthcare systems are offering free telemedicine visits.

Telehealth technology offers excellent care while decreasing your risk of exposure to other people who may be sick and contagious. Whether you live in a city or in a rural area, telemedicine is an excellent place to start if you think you are not feeling well and are concerned about having a virus or bacterial infection. During a virtual medical session, licensed professionals can help you as if they are right in front of you via your smartphone. It’s similar to using FaceTime or Skype. You are able to see and talk to your provider. They can call in prescriptions and can advise you about your illness just the same as if you were face-to-face.

Some of the most advanced healthcare systems even provide 24/7 virtual care for their patients who are required to be in insolation hospital rooms. This virtual hospital care maximizes patient attention while minimizing human contact.  The need for this type of in-hospital virtual care in increasing rapidly with the current pandemic. Many hospitals are already reporting understaffed situations due to nurse exposure to the coronavirus or needing to stay home for personal reasons. Virtual technology keeps patients safe from undue exposure to illness and also helps the hospital keep up with staffing needs.

BANYAN is committed to improving patient care and outcomes through technology-enabled virtual medical services. We help over one-third of all US health systems improve the delivery of care to their patients. In this time of uncertainty, we are here to help and answer any questions you may have. Visit us at banyanmed.com for more information.

Beth Cloyd is Chief Nursing Officer for BANYAN Medical Systems. Beth can be reached at beth.cloyd@banyanmed.com.