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Physicians can chat with patients via a virtual program from their home, using handheld devices or computer

Medical personnel at The Oregon Clinic, which counts Newberg among its more than 60 locations, are taking a decidedly high-tech approach to administering care while in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak: virtual visits.

"Our patients need access to their specialists, travel restrictions or not," Dr. Richard Jamison, president and chairman of the board of The Oregon Clinic, said last week. "Getting our patients the care they need to stay healthy is our top priority, so we did everything in our power to make this happen quickly."

To that end the clinic's physicians are offering virtual health visits, termed "telehealth," to patients who have been asked to stay at home and are restricted from visiting physicians for non-urgent appointments and to access care from specialists. The organization began offering the service Wednesday, March 25.

How it works is a simple process: A virtual visit is a two-way, one-on-one, video-based appointment between the patient and a physician via Microsoft Teams, a chat-based collaboration tool, on an Android or iPhone, tablet, iPad, laptop or desktop computer.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OREGON CLINIC - Dr. Samuel Hopkins, a dermatologist at the Oregon Clinic, speaks to a patient via the medical group's telehealth system."We're learning the technology right alongside our patients," Dr. Samuel Hopkins, a dermatologist at The Oregon Clinic, said. "Like everyone else during this crisis, we're adapting and so far, the response from our patients has been incredibly positive. The human connection is still there and it's a relief to still be able to help our patients."

The program at the clinic was made possible by passage of the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act in Congress in early March. The legislation allows patients to engage in telehealth visits from any setting (Medicare previously required that telehealth visits be conducted at a medical facility) and broadened regulations on the types of technology that can be utilized to conduct virtual visits.

"I've been absolutely impressed by how quickly our team has managed to get this program up and running," Thomas Sanchez, CEO of The Oregon Clinic, said. "Our entire organization showed their flexibility, dedication and creativity to make virtual visits available to our patients. Not only is this a huge benefit to our patients, but it also gives opportunities for our talented team to keep working, from physicians to medical assistants to billing staff."

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