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IU Health is encouraging people to utilize their Virtual Visits app, in which people can speak through their smart device to an expert working from a center like this one in Indianapolis.

David Reginer MD, an IU Health Department Chair in Frankfort, spoke with The Times on Monday about what steps residents can take to help keep IU Health Frankfort and its emergency department ready for a possible influx of patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though, as of press time Tuesday, Clinton County has yet to report a confirmed case of COVID-19, the long incubation period of the coronavirus and the rising number of cases in Indiana have hospitals in all corners of the state preparing to take on patients. There is an effort to keep certain types of non-emergency visits to the hospitals to a minimum.

“I think it goes without saying that we need them to follow the recommendations that everyone already know with social-distancing, hygiene and those things,” Dr. Reginer said. “We are keeping our clinic at 550 S. Hoke Ave. open. I know some primary care units are closed. Our goal is to keep the virus out of the clinic if possible. So, when you do come to the clinic there is a screening, and you are screened to see if you have any of the symptoms or have been exposed by someone with symptoms recently. If that is the case, you will be referred to the virtual app.”

The IU Health Virtual Visits app can be found in the app store of your smart device or enroll on your computer at https://iuhealth.org/find-medical-services/virtual-visits. According to the website, the app can connect users with a provider, and the virtual visits with a provider will typically last about 10 minutes. After the provider reviews your history and answers questions, users will then be given a diagnosis and/or instructions for treatment. IU Health providers also offer scheduled appointments through IU Health virtual visits. Those interested in scheduled virtual visits should have a conversation with their provider about the types of appointments they feel would be appropriate for their care. Scheduled visits are billed in accordance with the type of visit. However, the app also offers COVID screenings for free.

“The first pathway (on the app) is a nurse that take you through what you should be doing. The second pathway of the app gives you the option to schedule a virtual visit with a provider,” Dr. Reginer explained. “People may have a need, whether it is acute need that needs to be addressed not related to the virus at all, or they may need follow-up visits. We can complete a lot of those things virtually.”

Reginer says that phones calls to their provider or the use of the virtual clinic help reduce unnecessary visits.

“People should really go on the virtual app before coming here because they may save their self a visit,” Reginer said. “They will save time and materials for the providers.

“We have a couple different things as far as triage,” he added. “Sometimes we will just do a telephone visit. We can talk to them. If there is a younger and healthier patient that still needs to be evaluated, we will do a safe visit where we take them directly to a room to decrease the odds they will get anything.”

Reginer says the COVID-19 pandemic has has the effect of bringing telemedicine, which has been around but underused, to the forefront.

“Patients are interested in staying out of the office right now, and doctors are interested in keeping potentially sick people out of the office or keeping the elderly or those with other kinds of medical conditions that don’t want to risk going into the office out of the office, but still doing their followup,” he said. “It is going to change the way medicine is practiced. I think we will see more virtual (visits) to follow this.”

Reginer says his clinic at 550 S. Hoke Ave. in Frankfort has stayed open to help take some of the burden off of the emergency department at IU Health Frankfort.

“We talked about it being important to keep the clinic open so that they can take care of things here and not have to go to the emergency room,” he said.

“I just want the community to know that the clinic is still here and there are different ways to access the clinic. They can contact us, and we will do our best to keep them safe.”

Is IU Health accepting donated supplies?

Suggested items for donation:

Respiratory mask, including industrial N95 and N99 masks

Facial and eye protection

Hand sanitizer with 70 percent alcohol content

General personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves and observation gowns

Disinfectants

Those interested in donating supplies should contact IU Health Supply Chain Operations at COVID-19. Supplies@IUHealth.org. The IU Health Supply Chain Operations team will work directly with individuals and companies to assess each donation.