March 23, 2020
(Austin) – In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Central Health-funded CommUnityCare Health Centers is offering patients medical appointments without leaving the safety of their home.
“The best thing for people to do right now is to stay at home,” CommUnityCare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Alan Schalscha said. “By caring for patients over the phone, we can limit potential COVID-19 exposure for patients, staff, and our community – and ultimately help slow the spread of this disease. We know that medical appointments are incredibly important, and we want to provide them in the safest, most appropriate way possible.”
CommUnityCare staff is currently calling and texting patients that already have scheduled appointments to determine whether or not they can occur by phone. Patients who have not heard from CommUnityCare about their scheduled appointment or are wanting to make an appointment should call 512-978-9015.
Eligible appointments include chronic disease management for people with conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, and many acute conditions that don’t require lab work. Medication refills that don’t require a doctor’s approval can also be completed over the phone.
The shift to telemedicine visits and decreasing in-person appointments will also help with the priority of conserving Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which is in limited supply across the country. CommUnityCare staff is screening every patient and visitor for symptoms of COVID-19 before entering a facility, which includes a temperature reading. This requires that the employee has PPE.
“Telemedicine enables us to follow the social distancing recommendations by Austin Public Health,” Dr. Karen Welch, director of primary care CommUnityCare said. “We are also moving quickly to offer video appointments with CommUnityCare providers. We hope by the end of this week, up to 50 percent of our appointments will be by phone instead of in-person.”
CommUnityCare has about 120,000 patients annually. Many are uninsured, underinsured or members of Central Health’s Medical Access Program (MAP).
For a list of CommUnityCare clinics and hours of operation, visit CommUnityCareTX.org or call 512-978-9015.