Health First Virtual Options in the time of the Coronavirus

When Health First launched access to its physicians via Virtual Options in March, only 22 patients opted to receive routine care from the comfort of their home over the course of a week.

Then the coronavirus (Covid-19) happened.

In the days that followed, social distancing and stay-at-home orders made virtual care essential. Now, more than 1,000 Health First patients are using this technology every day; even those who initially might have been leery are gratefully embracing it. “This is an absolutely amazing tool for at-risk patients during COVID-19,” said a patient of Dr. Elena Barnes. “Please increase this ASAP so that patients can continue care with established physicians without risking exposure. As a patient with asthma and lupus, this visit was an absolute lifesaver. THANK YOU!”

Another patient who sees Kendra Ruckman, PA, echoed the sentiment: “I am so very grateful that I did not have to break my three-week quarantine! I was quite apprehensive about going into a medical facility. Thank you so very much for this alternative visit; you may have saved my life!”

Virtual Visits are just one part of Health First’s response to treat patients during this cautious and unsettling time.

“This has transformed how we deliver care,” said Dr. Douglas McKee, Vice President and Chief Medical Informatics Officer at Health First. “We have options that are being used that are convenient to customers. They do not have to come in and potentially get exposed (to illnesses) in the clinic.”

A Commitment to Care

Health First has committed to providing these important services to the community, despite the financial challenges that have resulted with temporarily shuttering some services for the public’s safety due to Covid-19. For example, the Symptom Checker was a $50,000 investment – but the service is something that provides peace of mind and direction to Brevard residents. Various teams have put in considerable hours of work for several weeks to make sure Virtual Visits and other solutions are available – stretching way beyond the cost of the actual technology itself. “I felt very good about not having to go into the office during this pandemic, and my entire experience was great,” said a patient of Dr. Allen Condo. “I appreciate the professional and caring, attentive care I am always given.”

Improved & Enhanced Website Options

In addition to Virtual Visits, multiple other digital enhancements have been developed for patients, with the company website,, shifting focus to Covid-19 to offer the community the answers and resources they need, including:

COVID-19 Symptom Checker:
Utilizing artificial intelligence, patients seeking guidance about whether or not they might have the virus are guided through a series of questions. The tool then directs them to a recommended course of action – whether it’s a visit to the hospital, a Virtual Visit or a call to emergency services, 911.

Enhanced Physician Directory:
The website can be searched for specialty physicians who can help identify and recommend actions for the particular symptoms being experienced by the patient – even the coronavirus, which recently was added to the database among the many other listings. Those seeking care for a particular condition are funneled through a call center to book a Virtual Visit with a provider who treats that condition.

Telehealth Mental Wellness Line:
At no cost to the community, Health First is providing a resource line for those feeling the emotional burden of Covid-19. Residents can call a trained support line counselor at 321-434-7700 daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.