August 3, 2020 – The School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine faculty, staff, students, and alumni are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak. We have asked any affiliates with our school to share their experiences and stories. This story comes from Maya Mahendran:
Mayanka Mahendran, a Tulane MD/MPH student in the Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences Department, conducted her practicum remotely with a team of public health individuals working with DePaul Community Health Centers and was involved with improving the new DePaul Health Centers telehealth interface.
DePaul runs a number of health centers that serve patients in New Orleans, Louisiana. Due to the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, DePaul was forced to switch from in-person visits to telehealth encounters in a short amount of time. This, naturally, came with hurdles, including technological issues and issues with patient communication. They asked their team to help with the transition and to ensure that patients using the telehealth interface experienced efficient and high-quality care. In order to go about this, their team began with a literature review focusing on the intersection of Telehealth with patient access, patient experience, and prior interventions within the field of telemedicine.
"COVID-19 took everyone by surprise, and it necessitated a huge shift from in-person clinic visits to online ones. I was looking at previous instances of telehealth implementation to give DePaul some direction on how to make their interface more accessible and useful to patients and providers," said Maya Mahendran.
The review was particularly focused on minority populations, as these populations tend to suffer more from disparities in healthcare that could be exacerbated with the switch to telemedicine. The review was summarized and analyzed in a report with recommendations for the direction of the project.
The team decided that it was extremely important to include the future users of the telehealth interface in the planning stages. Moving forward, team members will be conducting interviews with providers and patients in the target population to understand their specific experience and suggestions before brainstorming and presenting DePaul with a list of recommendations.