Expanded Telehealth Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced health care organizations across the country to consider new approaches to primary care, and telehealth is one method that organizations are using to continue providing care during the pandemic. However, some organizations may find the transition to increased telehealth difficult, with traditional approaches to care not suited well to the new format. Southcentral Foundation utilizes an approach to telehealth that takes advantage of its relationship-based system of care that delivers quality care to customer-owners without the need for face-to-face visits.

SCF has been providing telehealth services for well over a decade, as one of the primary methods used to provide care to customer-owners in rural Alaskan villages, many of which are so remote that they are only accessible by air. SCF made use of and expanded its existing telehealth infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic, designing systems for the convenience of those accessing services. SCF’s customer-driven and relationship-based philosophy made the transition to increased telehealth easy on both customer-owners and providers.

Telehealth services are supported by nurse case managers (who work together with providers on integrated care teams). Accessibility and responsiveness are critical parts of case managers’ responsibilities, as is triaging, which is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic so that customer-owners’ symptoms can be diagnosed and testing can be provided if needed. SCF has also shifted to phone communication wherever possible to minimize exposure risk, such as case managers using check-in phone calls with customer-owners rather than having them come to the clinics.

SCF’s behavioral health division has emphasized its use of virtual visits and has worked to maintain and even expand services where possible to provide support to customer-owners during a time of high stress and anxiety. Behavioral Health Consultants are available for virtual check-ins with customer-owners as needed. SCF is also continuing to offer Learning Circles in virtual format during the pandemic.

If you would like more information about how SCF has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, download the Nuka Approach to COVID-19 white paper here. And if you are interested in further information about this or any other topic related to SCF, feel free to contact the SCF Learning Institute.