Telemedicine health clinic opens for students, employees

The Department of Emergency Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has opened a telemedicine health clinic for students, employees and dependents ages 18 and older who suffer from minor ailments and from illnesses, including the flu and COVID-19.

The clinic, called WashU Express Care, began seeing patients virtually Sept. 1.

“WashU Express Care is an opportunity for us to offer students, employees and employees’ families convenient, easily accessible, affordable, high-quality care seven days a week,” said Brent E. Ruoff, MD, the chief of emergency medicine and an associate professor of emergency medicine. “Our focus is minor care complaints that can be treated virtually to help patients avoid crowded emergency departments and urgent care waiting rooms as well as long waiting times. Virtual treatment also helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

For patients who test positive for the coronavirus, the clinic will coordinate contact-tracing efforts with Occupational Health, the Habif Student Center or with public health agencies. Contact tracing is a public health tool used to help control outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Among the conditions WashU Express Care will evaluate and treat are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, back pain, sore muscles, coughs, sore throats, urinary tract infections, fevers, sinus infections, insect bites, and flu-like symptoms, among others. Physicians can electronically send prescriptions to a preferred pharmacy; however, they will not prescribe controlled substances.

Patients who experience chest pain, severe shortness of breath, severe abdominal pain or have stroke symptoms should call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department.

“The Department of Emergency Medicine has been interested in telehealth for some time, and the pandemic created the need and an opportunity to start a telemedicine program given the increased use and acceptance of telemedicine by patients,” added Christopher Palmer, MD, an assistant professor of emergency medicine. “We partnered with BJC HealthCare to offer virtual COVID-19 screening and coordinated testing early on, and, given our success, decided to proceed with our WashU Express Care service model. In addition to Express Care, we have started a telemedicine toxicology and addiction service, and have plans for other telehealth service lines in the near future.”

Emergency medicine physicians will be available to treat patients virtually from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Later this year, the service may include in-person visits as an option.

WashU Express Care is available to patients with and without primary care physicians. For those without one, the clinic will assist patients in finding one. It also will refer patients to specialists, if needed.

For university insurance plan participants, visits are part of the WUDirect benefit.

WashU Express Care staff will check on patients 72 hours after their visits to ensure they have been able to manage their discharge instructions and to further assist as needed.

Patients must have a MyChart account to access care. For those who do not, the clinic’s staff can help them sign up. Eventually, patients will be able to schedule appointments through MyChart, but for now, they need to call 314-747-3500 or 844-747-3500.

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