USF Health, Tampa General sending COVID-19 patients to telemedicine clinic to free up hospital beds

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As COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida continue to climb, Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital and USF Health are sending more patients to their joint established telemedicine clinic to free up hospital beds, according to local CBS affiliate WTSP

The Tampa-based health systems launched the COVID-19 Confirmed Clinic March 30 as part of a partnership with the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, according to the network. Through the telemedicine clinic, patients are sent home from the hospital with wearable technology that tracks their vitals. 

"We are discharging patients on oxygen way more often than what we had before," said telemedicine clinic director Elimarys Perez-Colon, MD. "We are discharging patients to be [monitored] at home, have the vital signs being monitored 24 hours a day, to have the appropriate care in the event of the decomposition."

In a July 9 emailed statement to Becker's Hospital Review, a USF Health spokesperson said patients participating in the telemedicine program are and can be sent home on oxygen, but they are not in critical condition. "They are on stable levels of oxygen and we wean them appropriately until they can come off the oxygen. All patients are monitored 24 hours a day and managed by us."

When it launched, the telemedicine clinic saw about 60 patients per day, but as cases started to ramp up in June, referrals began to climb from 200 to then 400 and even 500 to 600 per day, according to the July 8 report. The telemedicine clinic stopped taking referrals from the Florida Department of Health to manage new daily patient referrals. 

Dr. Perez-Colon, who also serves as an internal medicine assistant professor at USF Health medical school, told the network the telemedicine clinic has requested more physicians to help manage the growing patient population.

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