Augusta University Health (AU Health), along with the entire healthcare industry, had to act quickly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the crisis hit, the academic medical center based in Augusta, Ga., developed a plan to expand its geographic reach and provide safe and accurate testing and treatment for patients across the state. Virtual care was a key part of the organization’s response strategy.
AU Health had already partnered with Amwell on a direct-to-consumer urgent care program, AU Health Express Care, which it planned to roll out to its employees on April 1, 2020. In early March, just a few weeks from the launch date, the organization quickly pivoted and converted the urgent care program into a COVID-19 virtual screening program .
Within two days of setting the plan in motion, AU Health had trained and onboarded more than 100 providers on its telehealth platform. On March 13, the organization launched the AU Health Express Care website, and began by focusing on internal screenings — some of the first cases of COVID-19 were the hospital’s own employees.
The next day, AU Health launched the AU Health Express Care app on Apple and Android stores and began working to spread consumer awareness of the virtual care program. By March 20, the organization had conducted over 1,500 COVID-19 virtual screenings, and by April 29, over 12,300 COVID-19 virtual screenings were completed in total.
A COVID-19 Ecosystem Emerged — with Telehealth at the Center
AU Health’s COVID-19 screening program was at the heart of its response plan, but that plan grew and expanded over time, forming a larger ecosystem comprising many different components.
The Georgia Department of Public Health partnered with AU Health to open new in-person testing sites across the state to support the virtual screening program, and the National Guard extended the health system’s virtual reach into harder-to-access areas like nursing homes and assisted living facilities. AU Health also tapped into the expertise of its academic affiliates, partnering with the College of Nursing to notify patients of test results, the Dental College of Georgia to 3D-print swabs for testing, and the Medical College of Georgia to conduct contact tracing using data from the AU Health Express Care app.
These combined efforts enabled AU Health to ramp up testing across the states of Georgia and South Carolina and vastly expand its virtual care footprint.
For AU Health, the Future of Healthcare Is Virtual
Even though AU Health faced an uphill battle with the COVID-19 pandemic, it managed to develop an effective and innovative telehealth strategy as part of its response plan. The health system was able to extend its reach across state lines and greatly increase testing, at one point testing over 13,000 patients in a single day.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people everywhere receive care, and telemedicine has become the “new normal” for healthcare during a challenging time. AU Health plans to embrace that change — not just to prepare for the next pandemic but to meet the virtual experience patients will demand in the future.
For a full look at AU Health’s COVID-19 response timeline and telehealth strategy, read the case study.