University Medical Center uses technology to reach patients, community

University Medical Center uses technology to reach patients, community
University Medical Center's telemedicine visits will be available to existing and new patients. (contributed)

To be more accessible to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Alabama’s University Medical Center transitioned its evening clinic hours to evening telemedicine hours and will host weekly virtual town halls starting April 10.

Telemedicine visits are available to existing and new patients Monday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. To schedule an evening telemedicine appointment, patients should call UMC in Tuscaloosa at 205-348-1770 during regular hours of operation, 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

UMC, operated by the University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences, recently began providing more daytime and evening telemedicine appointments for patients. Evening telemedicine visits were added to improve access for patients who work during the day.

“Telemedicine is now making up nearly all psychiatry and psychology patient visits, about half of pediatric visits and the number of patients seeking telemedicine visits with their family medicine physicians is growing,” said Dr. Richard Friend, dean of UA’s College of Community Health Sciences.

According to Dr. Tom Weida, chief medical officer at UMC, telemedicine visits can be conducted with patients via computer with video and audio, or with an iPhone using FaceTime. If these options aren’t available, physicians can conduct a patient visit via telephone.

If it’s determined a patient needs to come to UMC for a face-to-face visit with a physician, the visit will be scheduled within 24 hours and the patient will not be charged with the telemedicine visit. The cost of the telemedicine-only visit depends on the patient’s health insurer, the type of visit and sometimes the length of the visit, Weida said. Some insurers are waiving the co-pay for telemedicine visits.

UMC’s virtual town halls, created through a partnership with WVUA, will take place every Friday on UMC’s Facebook page at 2 p.m. and will be hosted by Weida. The first town hall will focus on COVID-19 and primary care.

“UMC town halls will provide important updates about the COVID-19 pandemic and what we are doing at University Medical Center to care for those impacted, either directly or indirectly, by the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Friend. “In addition, we will help answer questions from our patients and community members.”

Future town halls will cover a variety of topics, including how COVID-19 affects pediatric, psychiatry and geriatric care.

Questions for UMC physicians can be submitted online before each town hall at umc.ua.edu.

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