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The COVID-19 pandemic has raised many concerns over health care, as both healthcare providers and patients, including those who have recently lost their jobs or benefits, have had to make adjustments during the outbreak.
Officials with Georgia Highlands Medical Services in Cumming — which serves insured, under-insured and uninsured patients — said the facility is taking steps not only to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus but to let the community know what services they can provide for those going through tough times.
“Since we caught wind of this toward the beginning, we have taken extra precautions. We do, per usual, very thorough scrub downs of our facilities every time we see a patient,” said Cheyanne Reyome, community outreach coordinator for GHMS. “We also have our waiting rooms split into sick [patients] and well [patients], and now we’re really not seeing any well patients because we want to keep that transmission of the disease low.”
Along with keeping the space divided, Reyome said GHMS was encouraging well patients to not meet with medical professionals face-to-face.
“Right now, all of our patients who are not coming in for immediately being sick, we’re converting them to telehealth, so we started using a behavioral app to help with managing our telehealth patients, so they can talk with a physician, a nurse practitioner or their nurse from their phone or their computer,” she said.
Along with the other attempts at keeping patients home, the facility is also working to reduce all visits from all those they serve, such as those picking up prescriptions.
“Something else that we’ve been doing is all of our patients who are on chronic medications that need medications for the next three months, we’ve actually been going through our pharmacy, which we have in-house, and supplying them with a three-month supply of their medications through our physicians as well,” Reyome said.
To serve those that are not insured, are under-insured or might be going through other issues, GHMS operates on a sliding-pay scale for patients, a federal program which takes into account factors like income and family size and can mean visits as low as $35.
Reyome said the company also helps with financial applications for those who have lapsed or no insurance.
“With the monumentous amount of people that have been applying for unemployment, we’re now able to see them as well, while they’re in this interim of not having health insurance, not having a job and really being there for the community as they go through this hard time,” she said.
“Even our counseling services, which we operate on the sliding-pay scale, we’re able to do through telehealth and offer it to people who might not have insurance right now.”
With the uncertainty of COVID-19, mental health has also been a focus for GHMS, and officials have been posting positive messages on their social media pages and encouraging patients who need to to speak with someone.”
“We just want to let the community know that we’re here for them,” Reyome said. “This is a very stressful time for everyone and we want to make sure that people are aware of the resources that they have and keeping their health a priority, mental and physical.”
More information about Georgia Highlands is available GHMS-inc.org.