Local Telemedicine Relief Efforts By New York Medical College Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Telemedicine project was created among many students, from first years to fourth years, in collaboration with a local provider, Dr. Steven Murphy at Murphy Medical Associates (MMA). Our goal is to take care of patients presenting with symptoms of COVID-19 from the time they first suspect they are symptomatic through their testing and eventually their recovery.
There are currently eight drive-thru testing centers throughout Connecticut and New York, with many others planned as the demand changes; these centers test hundreds of new patients daily. Our project primarily relies on contributions from first-and second-year preclinical medical students, who are responsible for the behind the scenes logistics, and third and fourth year clinical medical students, who are responsible for calling patients, following up and tracking their symptoms, as well as delivering negative test results. First- and second-year medical student volunteers help facilitate interactions with patients, making this project possible. After patients sign up to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms by MMA, student volunteers work remotely, taking their information from the online form and registering patients and enabling these patients to be scheduled for drive-thru testing and followed by the medical team. After patients are tested, first and second year students add them to a follow-up schedule, ensuring that their symptoms are appropriately monitored and MMA is made aware of any changes in their presentation. Using this follow up schedule, third- and fourth-year medical students contact patients to monitor their symptoms, assess how they are feeling, look for changes in their presentations, and help to provide reassurance and education about quarantine practices.
Another arm of the project focuses on delivering negative results to the patients after they have been tested. In addition to delivering the results, patients have the opportunity to express any concerns they may have during this time. Should any patient require additional attention, students act as a liaison to ensure that this need is met. If at any time during a volunteer session a question arises, volunteers contact the project managers who oversee all aspects of the volunteer experience. The project managers are able to troubleshoot any issues as they come in collaboration with the clinicians at the practice.
We are in the process of implementing an additional component within this project to train student volunteers to follow up with patients who have tested positive for the virus, as well as to help facilitate further testing by MMA, including bloodwork and echocardiograms to further investigate the clinical implications of COVID-19. This has been a great opportunity for students to interact with patients in a meaningful and clinical way during this time of limited hospital exposure. It also provides a great opportunity for patients to express any concerns they have during this uncertain time, as well as to ensure their symptoms have not worsened significantly to require further medical intervention before their COVID-19 status is known. Third- and fourth-year student volunteers have an opportunity to learn more about telehealth and gain these skills during this time of social distancing, as telehealth will certainly continue to be prevalent in the medical community as we begin to adjust to our new, post-COVID normal.