Telehealth and Urgent Care During COVID-19 While telehealth is well positioned to help mitigate the impact and spread of COVID-19, it is not an emergency care service

Americans who are sheltering at home and worried about COVID-19 are increasingly turning to virtual care, as are those seeking routine urgent care unrelated to COVID-19. At Amwell, we are seeing an unprecedented surge in demand for our services each day. We are working around the clock to scale capacity, onboard new providers, and ramp up technical and customer support.

To ensure patient safety and a good patient experience, we would like to set clear expectations with the public about when telehealth is and is not appropriate, and we are asking our clients to do the same.

Here are the most important points to be aware of:

1.Telehealth is not an emergency service

Patients with a medical emergency, including those with severe COVID-19 symptoms, should call 911 or seek care at their nearest emergency room immediately. (See more info on COVID-19 symptoms and risk categories below.)

2. Telehealth providers can evaluate patients with milder COVID-like Illness

Our clinicians are prepared to evaluate and recommend care for patients with COVID-like Illness and to triage higher-acuity patients to in-person care settings. However, our clinicians cannot treat severe COVID-19 symptoms or test patients remotely.

3. Telehealth providers can help with routine urgent care

Using telehealth for health conditions and concerns unrelated to COVID-19 can help reduce the number of people travelling to and from physical care facilities. Our clinicians support prescription renewals, chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma, behavioral health consultations, treatment for rashes and minor injuries, and other routine urgent care.

4. Wait times are much longer than usual

Wait times for telehealth urgent care visits have averaged 48 minutes over the past 7 days and can be even longer in high-demand locations and during peak times. Patients who enter the waiting room seeking urgent care should select “See First Available Doctor” to minimize wait time.

COVID-19 Telehealth Assessment

Amwell Medical Group (AMG) providers assess patients using the following COVID-19 risk categories:

High Risk Medium Risk Low/No Risk
Health Concerns:

  • Severe respiratory symptoms
  • Individual at high risk for complications
Health Concerns:

  • Exhibit moderate symptoms
  • Known exposure to COVID-19
  • Healthcare workers or those with underlying heart/lung conditions
Health Concerns:

  • Mild head/chest congestion, cough, sneezing, running nose
  • Unlikely or no contact with COVID-19
  • No underlying heart/lung conditions
Recommended Communication:

  • Needs immediate emergency care
  • Patient should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room
Recommended Communication:

  • An immediate telehealth visit is likely appropriate
  • Some of these patients may still require in-person care
Recommended Communication:

  • Self-isolation
  • If symptoms do not improve or continue to worsen in next few days, seek care through telehealth

 

Peter Antall, MD is the Chief Medical Officer of Amwell.