Augusta University is leading the way in Georgia when it comes to testing and a $1.09 million donation from Peach Bowl Inc. will help pay for even more tests.

Augusta University was already working on their direct to consumer telehealth app when the crisis hit; however, they planned to release the service to patients sometime in the summer. AU expedited the process so that they could start seeing patients virtually in early March for COVID-19 screenings.

Lauren Williams is the director for population health and is one people working behind the scenes to keep the AU Health Expresscare App running 24/7. She says the app is a collaborative effort made possible providers, scheduling staff and IT personnel.

“We set up an internal it command center staffed by our nursing and clinical informatics team to be able to assist providers when they called in with the technical issue or a workflow issue and even patients,” Williams says.

Williams estimates they reset 10 passwords a day on average and says this is the most common technical problem they handle. In the beginning, these types of operations happened from a physical hub, but not anymore.

“It’s all on call because providers and patients have become so routine to this,” Williams says. “This past weekend, we had one technical issue and that was it reported.”

Healthcare providers are using the AU Health Expresscare App to see patients for more than just COVID screenings.

“We have about 1,200 providers all multi-discipline so we have family medicine internal medicine to psychiatry and psychologists,” Williams explains. “They are all using the app in various forms, but every discipline also is helping to staff the COVID app.”

Emergency Medicine Dr. Matt Lyon’s team is using their emergency department platform to help patients in nursing homes.

“We have 2 systems really. We have a TeleE.D. system where we are helping rural emergency departments and we have this direct to consumer where we can connect individually, a physician and a patient. We’re combining those two systems in places like nursing homes,” Dr. Lyon explains. “We are there virtually to help them monitor their patients to see if symptoms are developing, help them work through the screening process for each of their residents.”

Dr. Lyon points out that the coronavirus screening process has provided a survey of rural Georgia as it relates to internet access.

“It’s really easy to see where the disparities are because there are some people who can only use the phone and then we have people who can use the app so we can see where the differences are geographically,” Dr. Lyon says.

He hopes the information helps lawmakers and private companies increase broadband in rural areas in the future and therefore improve rural healthcare.