Hospitals reach out to sick over the phone, internet

Kaweah Delta offers COVID-19 hotline, Adventist Tulare offers virtual symptom checker and online chat

The Sun-Gazette

VISALIA – Two local hospitals are hoping to treat more patients without having them come to the hospital and put themselves at risk.

Last month, Kaweah Delta launched a new, free screening hotline intended to assess people who may have COVID-19 symptoms from the safety of their home to avoid the unnecessary exposure of themselves and others.

The free hotline allows an individual with COVID-19 symptoms, to schedule a same-day appointment with a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners call the individuals for a phone screening to determine if they need to visit a COVID-19 testing site or medical facility.

“We’re trying to keep people who need to be out of waiting rooms and public places quarantined in the comfort of their own home until we can rule out COVID-19. We’re doing all of this to keep the community safe,” said Ryan Gates, Kaweah Delta’s Vice President of Population Health. “If the nurse practitioner determines that the person should be tested for COVID-19, they will never even have to leave their car to have a specimen collected.”

Anyone can call the hotline at (559) 624-4110, but people with primary care physicians should call their physician for an assessment first. COVID-19 symptoms include the following within the last 14 days:

  • Fever of 100.4 degrees F (38 degrees C) or higher
  • Excessive dry cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Travel via plane, train, or cruise
  • Exposure to someone with confirmed case of COVID-19.

“Many people have questions right now. This is a way for us to do the right thing, while being a resource and keeping others safe,” Gates said. 

Just last week, Adventist Health announced the launch of its COVID-19 Virtual Assistant and Symptom Checker at www.adventisthealth.org/tulare, an easy and accessible way to check symptoms and obtain information about COVID-19 via online chat.

“During this unprecedented time of uncertainty and constant change, Adventist Health understands the essential need and our responsibility to provide up-to-date information and support to the communities we serve,” said Ramesh Nathan, Medical Director of infection prevention and antimicrobial stewardship with Adventist Health. “We know patients find these resources to be helpful, and this online tool can provide an even quicker response to those seeking information.”

Adventist Health worked with GYANT, a digital health company that specializes in AI virtual assistants for health systems, to develop the COVID-19 Virtual Assistant and Symptom Checker.

“We developed our COVID-19 Screener and Emergency Response Assistant to help hospitals and health systems manage the influx of patient inquiries during time of uncertainty,” said Stefan Behrens, CEO, GYANT. “We’re thrilled to help Adventist Health keep their patients better informed and help prevent further spread of the virus. Adventist Health patients can now receive the most up-to-date information they need virtually, without needing to leave their homes.”

The COVID-19 Virtual Assistant and Symptom Checker, developed using guidelines and protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), provides reliable, timely information to patients and community members. This free, easy-to-use tool is accessible 24/7, offers a symptom checker as well as provides options for a virtual visit and information on sheltering-in-place.

For additional information and resources about coronavirus, visit adventisthealth.org/coronavirus-preparedness.

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