Telehealth tech and FCC grant help clinic maintain visit volume
Credit: William J. Nazareth Jr.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 100% of the clinical operations of New York City's Callen-Lorde were in person. By mid-March 2020, it became clear that the clinic needed to pivot to a virtual model, at least in part, to continue to maintain medical and mental health visits while reducing the number of staff and patients onsite.
A group of core staff convened to research and vet technology solutions, ultimately deciding on vendor OTTO.
"OTTO offered a platform that would allow a secure video session for the provider and patient that would also integrate with our practice management and EHR systems to streamline some of the steps needed to document the visit," said Finn Brigham, director of project management at Callen-Lorde.
"Additionally, it allows us to contact the patient via text and email with a link to a visit, and is able to act as 'a front desk' by asking patients to complete consents and checking them into their visit when they log in," Brigham continued.
The FCC telehealth funding program awarded the clinic $917,255 for mobile hotspots, tablets and laptop computers for providers and patients, telehealth and conferencing equipment. The clinic also purchased other software licenses enabling patients and healthcare providers to access the technology and connectivity necessary for remote delivery of primary care, behavioral health and dental care to patients sheltering in place, as well as patients facing access barriers.
Once the OTTO platform was selected, the organization initiated the implementation process. Additionally, it purchased laptops with adequate cameras, microphones and speakers to allow providers to deliver care remotely in a safe and secure way.
"Thanks to this technology, we have been able to maintain close to our regular visit volume – around 95,000 visits in 2020 versus roughly 100,000 in 2019."
Finn Brigham, Callen-Lorde
"As soon as OTTO was implemented and laptops were administered, we transitioned as many of our provider visits to the new platform to reduce onsite services to only what was absolutely necessary," Brigham explained. "The new OTTO platform has some features that are integrated with our NextGen practice management and EHR vendor to streamline documentation and ensure that all the information is captured."
Medical, behavioral health and dental providers are able to provide high-quality care via telehealth using the video platform, he added. The system now is accessible to all providers.
Maintaining visit volume
"Thanks to this technology, we have been able to maintain close to our regular visit volume – around 95,000 visits in 2020 versus roughly 100,000 in 2019," Brigham said. "Dental was fully closed due to the pandemic, and this solution allowed us to reopen to provide limited virtual services.
"In behavioral health, we're actually outpacing patient visits year over year," he continued. "Allowing patients the flexibility to receive care remotely has been a huge improvement overall, and we were able to maintain close to capacity in services delivered at the start and middle of the pandemic because of this technology."
The FCC funds allowed Callen-Lorde to launch its telehealth program in a matter of weeks – something that otherwise would have taken months or even years to undertake, he noted.
"We were able to provide staff with the equipment needed to perform critically needed health services remotely, keeping both our staff and our patients safe," Brigham said. "The importance of this cannot be understated, particularly during a pandemic.
"It's also worth noting that we opened our fourth clinical location, Callen-Lorde Brooklyn, in the early days of the pandemic – we saw our first patient there on May 15," he concluded. "We were unsure of how new patients would engage in establishing primary care during lockdown, but were pleasantly surprised at the uptake and have consistently exceeded expectations, filling space much more quickly than anticipated."