Jumpstarting Telemedicine at Columbia

April 28, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on our country’s hospitals, clinics, and healthcare facilities. Physicians everywhere are working to ensure the safest and most efficient care for patients with and without the disease. And with widespread calls to limit in-person contact, Columbia’s existing work to step up telemedicine offerings for patients and providers has taken on a new urgency. 

This January, Columbia launched new digital health initiatives including Epic, a single electronic medical health record system, and Connect, a new online patient portal, without realizing how quickly and vitally they would be helping patients and providers in the face of the current global crisis. 

Columbia’s adoption of telemedicine offerings has enabled us to rapidly pivot to video visits amid the pandemic, making a critical difference for patients and providers at a time of great need. We can more easily schedule current patients for digital follow-ups and take on new patients for online "visits" both in and out of state — a first for the hospital. Additionally, these new platforms have increased our team’s functionality, so that multiple clinicians can be on one call with a single patient and determine together whether the patient’s condition necessitates an in-person visit. 

The new system also provides patients who are mobility limited, have special needs, or are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 with a viable alternative to in-person check-ups, getting the same high-quality care from Columbia’s team of providers with no risk of receiving or transmitting the disease. More than 50 percent of Columbia’s visits with patients are currently taking place via telemedicine. 

For the continued protection of Columbia’s patients and providers during the pandemic, Columbia’s medical students are aiding physicians and nurses with on-boarding patients to the telemedicine platforms, ensuring long-term availability and increased accessibility of healthcare down the line. 

“This marks a paradigm shift in how we provide healthcare," says Ali Mencin, MD, medical director of children’s services. The platform allows us to take care of our current patients, see new patients, and to continue Columbia’s medical mission while preventing the spread of COVID to the patient and provider population.”