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For postsurgical follow-ups, enter video visits

For patients who travel from remote areas to the Rogue Valley for surgery, returning for a routine follow-up can be inconvenient and costly. Megan Frost, MD, a general surgeon with Asante Physician Partners and ATRMC, hopes to ease that with…

For patients who travel from remote areas to the Rogue Valley for surgery, returning for a routine follow-up can be inconvenient and costly. Megan Frost, MD, a general surgeon with Asante Physician Partners and ATRMC, hopes to ease that with a pilot project that allows these post-op visits to be done remotely.

Using two-way video capability in MyChart, Asante’s patient portal, Frost can conduct a brief exam and incision check in the convenience of the patient’s home. The only requirements are that the patient live in Oregon, have an Asante MyChart account and own a smartphone. (APP already offers video visits for minor health conditions and recently expanded the service for urgent care.)

Dr. Frost got the idea for using the technology for surgical follow-ups when she was brainstorming how to increase use of MyChart, a privacy-protected website that stores patients’ personal health information. MyChart allows patients to see portions of their medical records, schedule clinic appointments, view their test results, refill prescriptions and message their provider.

APP wants to boost the use of MyChart because it gives patients another way to communicate with their health care teams while also increasing access to care, one of Asante’s goals in 2020.

Dr. Frost began testing the viability of video visits in December, beginning with her general surgery patients who live in outlying communities. “We identify patients preop who might be good candidates for a postop video visit,” she said. “These are typically patients who have a small operation that doesn’t require a lengthy follow-up appointment.”

Dr. Frost has found that the remote visits not only are easier for the patient, they also free up time within the clinic. There’s no patient check-in at the front desk, no rooming by a medical assistant, no check-out.

“That’s one patient the MA has no responsibility for,” she said.

So far, between 5% and 10% of Grants Pass general surgery patients have qualified for video follow-ups, but that number is likely to grow. Video visits also can expand to other surgical specialties, depending on patient needs.

“If this saves a patient from coming back to the office or being readmitted,” Dr. Frost said, “then it’s the right thing to do.”

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