Aspen Valley Hospital to resume elective procedures Friday, ramps up telemedicine technology
After taking a six-week hiatus from performing elective medical procedures and surgeries, Aspen Valley Hospital will resume those operations Friday as more public health orders are either lifted or eased in Pitkin County.
“And that is important because we have community members that have been waiting,” hospital CEO David Ressler told the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s board of directors during their monthly meeting Tuesday. “It may not have been emergent or urgent, but they need health care.”
AVH said it suspended its elective surgeries and procedures based on recommendations from the U.S. surgeon general, the American College of Surgeons and Pitkin County public health orders, as well as from Gov. Jared Polis.
The 25-bed hospital initially said March 16 it would not be offering the procedures through March 30; it later extended that through April 30.
“The postponement of surgical cases is necessary to limit COVID-19 spread and do everything we can to protect our patients and health care providers, and to preserve limited resources for the weeks ahead,” the hospital said March 16.
But officials’ concerns of a widespread outbreak locally have tempered, with the hospital and the local incident management team saying they are now entering the containment mode.
Ressler reported there were no COVID-19-related cases in AVH at the time he was speaking, which was approximately 10 a.m. Tuesday; however, AVH had one patient suspected to have the COVID-19 virus as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to the hospital public information officer Jennifer Slaughter.
Since the first case was reported March 8 in Pitkin County, there have been 61 confirmed cases and two deaths in the county, according to the state’s database.
Patients who schedule elective procedures will be tested for the novel coronavirus in the respiratory evaluation tent outside the hospital, Ressler said.
“We are an essential service, so our clinics are resuming seeing patients besides over telemedicine,” he said.
Telemedicine is a way physicians conduct medical processes with their patients over telephone or computer. AVH had aimed for later this year to introduce the technology, “but the advent of COVID-19 accelerated that timeline,” according to a news release AVH issued Wednesday.
Aspen Valley Primary Care and OrthoAspen, both run by Aspen Valley Hospital, as well as its cardiology, ophthalmology and otolaryngology (ear, nose, throat) departments all are currently employing telemedicine on an app called Healow.
The app allows patients and their doctors to view personal electronic medical records, refill prescriptions, view lab results, and schedule appointments with primary care doctors and specialists.
AVH said it plans to eventually connect its entire system to eClinicalWorks, a cloud-based platform that integrates with the Healow app.
The After-Hours Medical Care clinic in Basalt currently is using a Zoom platform to conduct its virtual visits.
The Basalt clinic also is offering telemedicine visits to patients exhibiting upper respiratory symptoms. They are advised to speak with a nurse to determine if a telemedicine visit is needed by calling 970-544-1250.
“It made sense in this time of COVID-19 to adopt this option as quickly as possible,” said AVH Chief Transformation Officer Elaine Gerson. “It allows high-risk patients to stay at home, and allows us to manage their care.”
The hospital is not conducting telemedicine visits at its flagship Aspen operation. Patients are advised to call their regular doctor or Aspen Valley Primary Care for further evaluation.
In some instances, those patients are referred to AVH’s respiratory evaluation tent for future evaluation.
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