Integrating Health Professions Students Into Telehealth Efforts During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Chelsea, Massachusetts
Chelsea, a community of largely working-class Latinx immigrants, is Boston’s COVID-19 epicenter with approximately 6,900 cases per 100,000 individuals. Crimson Care Collaborative, a student-faculty clinic, developed and launched a telehealth program with Massachusetts General Hospital’s Respiratory Illness Clinic in Chelsea to assess patients and provide appropriate COVID-19 counseling. Volunteers from Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the MGH Institute of Health Professions (IHP) call patients on days 2, 5, and 8 after their initial COVID-19 screening. The goals of these calls are to 1) assess patients and determine if they need to be referred to further clinical care, 2) counsel on self-isolation and “red flag” symptoms, and 3) connect patients with social needs to the appropriate resources. Shifts run from 8AM-PM every day with students working in teams via secure Zoom. Each is run by a “senior clinician,” an HMS student who has completed his or her core clerkships. Their job is to not only call patients, but also manage workflow, troubleshoot problems, and help “junior clinicians (JCs)” before escalating any concerns to the physician on-call. JCs are medical students that are in the process of completing core clerkships or IHP students in their final year of clinical training. They are responsible for calling patients and documenting encounters using standardized templates. More than 150 MD, NP and PA students have been involved in these interprofessional efforts. Volunteers contact and provide in-depth counseling to more than 500 patients each week, with many expressing gratitude for the ample time students can give. Students, in turn, are enthusiastic to utilize their clinical training and enable attending clinicians with more time to see other patients and practice at the top of their license.