MultiCare rapidly expands virtual visit capabilities for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic
MultiCare Health System is now providing virtual visits system-wide to ensure patients have uninterrupted access to care and to help keep patients and health care personnel safe.
Once utilized at a handful of clinics, virtual visit capability expanded rapidly over the course of 21 days in March. Today, essentially all MultiCare primary and specialty care services can offer patients a virtual visit, if clinically appropriate, including Mary Bridge Children’s clinics and Pulse Heart Institute.
“With COVID-19 spreading so quickly in our communities, we needed to find a solution that would enable us to provide care remotely for patients, and find it fast,” says Dr. David Carlson, Chief Medical Officer for MultiCare. “I’m truly impressed with the work our clinical teams across the system have done to roll out this technology and make it widely available in hundreds of clinics in just a matter of days.”
The system saw more than 8,500 appointment-based virtual visits between March 30 and April 5 of this year alone, far surpassing the number that occurred during the organization’s entire 2019 calendar year. The week of April 13 through 19 there were 11,177 scheduled video visits.
Some additional figures:
- Pre-COVID-19, an estimated 60 to 70 providers across MultiCare offered virtual visits across about 20 different clinics/departments. Today, there are about 1,100 providers across about 130 clinics.
- MultiCare’s adult clinics in the Puget Sound region would see about eight patients virtually per day. The week of April 12 they averaged 1,048 virtual visits per day.
- Previously, there was one MultiCare provider offering virtual visits in the Inland Northwest region. Today there are 112 primary care providers using the technology. The week of April 12 MultiCare had 1,837 virtual visits from that region.
- Pulse Heart Institute had not offered virtual visits at all prior to March. Now, all clinics in all specialties — cardiology, electrophysiology, heart failure, cardiothoracic surgery, vascular surgery and cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation — have virtual visit options in both in the Puget Sound and Inland Northwest region. The Heart Institute provided 1,303 virtual visits the week of April 12.
Virtual health options at MultiCare fall into two main categories: virtual visits available through MultiCare’s doctor’s offices and clinics and MultiCare Virtual Care E-Visits, the branded service offered through the organization.
For appointment-based virtual visits with a MultiCare provider, patients may request a virtual visit with their provider as an alternative to an in-person visit when calling to schedule their appointment. Virtual visits are usually appropriate for appointments such as annual wellness visits (for existing patients), chronic disease management, specialty care visits (including check-ins for pregnant patients), new-patient visits, or occupational medicine for injured workers. The cost for these virtual visits is the same as an in-person visit, and insurance is accepted.
These expanded virtual care options enable patients to maintain their trusted provider relationship while receiving the care they need during this time. MultiCare has seen the highest rate of virtual visit adoption among cancer patients, primary care patients and patients seeking women’s health care.
E-Visits are a fast and affordable option to receive on-demand care for minor health conditions, such as allergies, colds and sinus infections, UTIs and more. Patients are asked to fill out a health questionnaire online and generally receive a follow-up from a certified care provider within an hour with a personalized treatment plan and any prescriptions needed. Much like an in-person urgent care, patients are unable to request a specific provider. E-Visits are available 8am to 10pm, seven days a week, and cost $25. Insurance may cover this cost and patients are only charged if their condition can be treated virtually. Clinicians will refer patients to other care options if needed.
Learn more about Virtual Health services at MultiCare, including how to schedule a virtual appointment with MultiCare provider or start an on-demand E-Visit.
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MultiCare is a not-for-profit health care organization with more than 20,000 team members, including employees, providers and volunteers. Learn more. More stories by this author