Baptist Health Residents Helping Staff Telemedicine Platform
By Peter B. Laird
Medical residents from the West Kendall Baptist Hospital-Florida International University residency program are fulfilling a vital role at Baptist Health South Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic—and getting priceless experience in the future of healthcare.
Working alongside doctors from Baptist Health Medical Group, these Family Medicine physicians-in-training are helping staff Baptist Health Care On Demand, the health system’s online telemedicine platform and an integral part of its frontline strategy for responding to the pandemic.
Baptist Health Care On Demand has seen a surge in call volume in recent weeks as the COVID-19 virus has spread across South Florida. According to Lissette Egues, Baptist Health Vice President, this is an “All Hands On Deck” moment. “We’ve seen a 1,300% increase in volume since the arrival of the coronavirus,” she says. “We’re rapidly adding providers to the app.”
To help meet the increased demand, Baptist Health is recruiting doctors to come out of retirement. It’s also letting Baptist doctors who have tested positive yet are still capable of seeing patients to “stay in the game” by providing medical care remotely and safely from home via the Baptist Health Care On Demand app. But even that isn’t enough to keep pace, and that’s where the residents are helping fill the gaps and put their training to use.
All residents have received extensive training in telemedicine to ensure the highest quality of service for patients, and are always under the supervision of a Core Faculty physician, says Gabriel Suarez, M.D., MBA, a family physician with Baptist Health.
“They are able to evaluate and manage, with the assistance of their supervisor, even the most complex cases,” says Dr. Suarez, who also serves as associate director for the residency program, which is based at Baptist Health Medical Group Family Medicine Center in West Kendall, the site of the residents’ continuity practice.
When fielding calls for Baptist Health Care On Demand, residents always self-identify as a training physician and discuss details of the case with their supervising physician, who can patch into the visit, if needed. Although there have been longer than usual wait times due to increased demand, most patients experience a smooth and positive experience and are happy to be able to get the treatment they need without having to leave the safety of their home.
If a patient prefers not to see a resident, then the supervising physician is made readily available for the patient, according to Dr. Suarez. “In my experience, however, and in speaking with patients who were initially skeptical of receiving care from a resident, most of the time they leave the visit even more satisfied because they know we took our time with them and were very thorough in our discussion. Just like when I’m accompanied by residents in the hospital, I always tell patients they’re getting two brains for the price of one.”
In the midst of a frightening pandemic, Dr. Suarez says many patients seeking help from Baptist Health Care On Demand are “scared, overwhelmed with information and more than anything just want clear information from a trusted source.”
“As primary care physicians, we are at our core educators and promoters of health and well-being,” Dr. Suarez says. “We take the extra time and effort to educate our patients on their condition and help them understand how they can manage their health and prevent illness.”
Many patients are using Baptist Health Care On Demand because they have symptoms and think they may have contracted the virus, while others simply need help understanding what this pandemic means for them and their loved ones. In addition, with numerous primary care offices not easily or safely accessible now, many patients with chronic conditions rely on the service when they need adjustments to their care plan or refills on prescription medications.
As telemedicine’s role in healthcare continues to grow, particularly as a result of this pandemic, residents’ experience with Baptist Health Care On Demand will serve them well once they earn their medical degrees, says Bernie Fernandez , M.D., CEO of Baptist Health Medical Group.
The Baptist Health Care On Demand app has become the backbone of how Baptist Health is providing care virtually across dozens of medical specialties, according to Dr. Fernandez.
“Most of the services that we used to provide only in person are now also available online through our telehealth app, including Urgent Care, Primary Care, Mental Health Therapy, Orthopedics, Cardiology, Oncology, Neurology and many more,” Dr. Fernandez says. “All of us at Baptist Health – doctors, residents, nurses and clinical support staff – are here to serve our patients any way we can.”
Concerned you may have coronavirus?
Use our online Coronavirus Assessment tool or call our COVID-19 hotline, 1-833 MYBAPTIST (833-692-2784). To see a doctor on your phone from the comfort and safety of your home, download Baptist Health Care On Demand. Use code CARE19 for a free visit.