In the wake of social distancing and other COVID-19 measures, Humboldt
General Hospital has announced a new telehealth initiative aimed at connecting
providers with their northern Nevada patients via technology.
Telehealth refers broadly to electronic and telecommunications technologies
and services used to provide care and services at a distance. Physicians
and patients communicate via a Skype or FaceTime-like encounter. Patients
can communicate via phone or computer screen.
Humboldt General Hospital Practice Administrator Robert Johnson said while
COVID-19 is a pressing concern for all medical personnel, there are thousands
of area patients who still need continuing care for chronic health conditions
or non-COVID-19 illnesses.
“Telehealth care is a way to meet this need,” said Johnson.
Johnson said Humboldt General Hospital has more than a dozen providers
who sees hundreds of patients a day.
“Like all healthcare providers, this situation has been unique for
us in deciding how to be watchful for COVID-19 exposure and symptoms while
still treating the person with diabetes or heart disease, or the patient
with pink eye or a sinus infection.”
Johnson said telehealth isn’t new technology for Humboldt General
Hospital; patients have been connected to out-of-area specialists via
the technology for several years now. But Johnson said now is an ideal
time to engage it fully for local providers—for both now and into
Plus, most insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid, have expanded
their coverage to include a telehealth platform.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, government payers as well as private
insurers are paying for telehealth visits just as they would for a traditional
appointment,” Johnson said. He said when a patient is a good candidate
for a telehealth appointment, staff register the patient and verify his
or her insurance just as they would with a regular office visit.
Johnson said providers decide on a case-by-case basis who is a candidate
for a telehealth visit. Technological requirements also depend on whether
the appointment is a new-patient visit or a return or follow-up visit.
“This is when the relationships we’ve built with our patients
make the difference,” said Johnson. “We can quickly asses
why our patient needs an appointment, if that appointment can take place
via telehealth, and if our patients even have the technology or ability
to participate over a computer or a phone.”
Johnson said patients will find the experience relatively easy. Patients
will download video conferencing software on their home computer, laptop
or tablet; or download an app on their smartphone. Their provider office
will then email or text a meeting code that will allow them to log into
their virtual appointment.
In addition to the ability to reduce exposure to the COVID-19 virus, Johnson
said the technology also will overcome travel restrictions and visitor
restrictions. As an added benefit, telehealth can help conserve personal
protective equipment (PPE) and other clinical resources that are needed
in the hospital.
Johnson said some patients may still need to come to the hospital for testing
and follow-up, “but this is a great way for them to get started
with care or continue care,” he said.
He added, “Telehealth is a great option for caring for patients while
limiting everyone’s exposure to this virus.”
Patients should call their personal healthcare provider to schedule a telehealth
visit at (775) 623-5222 or for more information; appointments also may
be made via an individual’s personal Patient Portal at hghospital.iqhealth.com.