MUSC Health adds new coronavirus to Virtual Care options

March 06, 2020
This screenshot shows what the new COVID-19 option looks like on MUSC Health Virtual Care.

MUSC Health has added COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, to the list of conditions you can be screened for through Virtual Care. Anyone in South Carolina who has COVID-19-like symptoms can use the online system for free by using the promo code COVID19.

Edward O’Bryan, M.D., is an emergency medicine doctor who treats patients in person and through telehealth and serves as executive director of MUSC Health Solutions and chief medical officer of Business Health. He said if the virus becomes an issue in South Carolina, telehealth could help slow its spread. “As we preach social responsibility – don’t shake people’s hands, wash your hands frequently – this is another way to try to prevent community transmission.”

MUSC Health Virtual Care is a 24/7 system staffed by doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners at MUSC Health who communicate with patients through a variety of online interviewing systems that include texts, calls and videos.

It's adding a COVID-19 online visit as state health officials investigate several possible cases in South Carolina.

Dr. O'Bryan's head shot 
Dr. Edward O'Bryan

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include a fever, a cough and shortness of breath. MUSC Health Virtual Care has added an algorithm to screen for COVID-19 in its questionnaires, even in people who do not specify that they’re concerned they might have it. If a doctor, PA or NP thinks a patient does have COVID-19, they will treat the symptoms and give the patient information about what to do if the symptoms are severe and call for a higher level of care.

O’Bryan said Virtual Care could also benefit people who have other nonemergency health problems. “We will be using this quite a lot to keep people out of waiting rooms and urgent cares who are worried about catching the coronavirus from other people who are there seeking treatment.”

The coronavirus could become a tipping point for telehealth, also known as telemedicine. A 2019 survey found that only about 1 in 10 Americans has used telehealth for a virtual visit. O’Bryan said that’s likely to change as people look for ways to temporarily limit their exposure to others.

“Telemedicine is equivalent to in-person care for a large number of conditions. We use it to treat 70-plus other medical conditions such as urinary tract infections, flu, rashes, all kinds of other things that we can treat remotely so you don’t have to be exposed.”

And the flu is one virus he’s actually treating patients for right now. “The flu is still very prevalent here. We have had a lot of flu. People need to be on the lookout for it.”

About the Author

Helen Adams

Keywords: COVID-19