Surge in virtual visits for local at-risk patients amid COVID-19 concerns

Posted at 6:19 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 13:11:59-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Local health care workers are seeing a massive number of at-risk patients through virtual visits amid concerns over COVID-19.

“We've gone from having 100 visits a day [by phone or video] to 1,200 visits just yesterday alone, says Dr. Abi Olulade with San Diego's Sharp Rees-Stealy Group.

She and hundreds of doctors with Sharp Healthcare are putting a special emphasis on telehealth appointments with patients who are considered at-risk because their immune systems can be weaker.

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“[Patients] with lung disease, heart disease, diabetes and those that are immuno-compromised so we are focused on our higher risk patients,” she tells 10News.

This week, 10News interviewed Dr. David Wetherhold at Scripps Health whose team is also trying to reach that same population through Scripps' telehealth program. It was supposed to roll out over the next 18 months, but with COVID-19, it's compressed into a few weeks.

“The immuno-compromised, transplant patients, heart failure patients or cancer patients. [They’re] going to be our initial focus [with] trying to get them the care they need remotely without bringing them out into the community," Wetherhold said.

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“They are more at-risk of getting severe complications from coronavirus so we want to limit them coming into the office when we can,” adds Dr. Olulade.

She wants to remind at-risk patients to stay in communication with their providers about any new symptoms, even if mild, that could warrant a need for further evaluation.

If an office visit is required, she tells 10News that they'll prepare accordingly to receive those patients and limit any risks they could face.