Alison Connelly-Flores is a certified physician assistant and chief medical information officer at Urban Health Plan Inc. in New York City. The onset of COVID-19 triggered a last-minute IT whirlwind, leaving Alison scrambling to devise, develop, and demonstrate the effectiveness of telemedicine services for Urban Health Plan. Tasked with merging clinical and technological initiatives, Alison has worked around the clock to attain the federally qualified health center status for Urban Health Plan and remain financially competitive.
Stress levels remain high for Alison and her team, but their efforts aren’t going to waste. Just one week after starting the transition to telemedicine, Urban Health Plan had 225 providers conducting visits online or by phone. According to Alison, swapping the majority of their appointments from in-person to online has opened her eyes to hidden advantages.
As a certified physician assistant, Alison is trained to listen to her patients and address their problems. But sometimes, patients aren’t able to verbalize their requests with the level of clinical specificity that would change the course of their treatment. In these instances, telemedicine gives a glimpse into the patient’s home environment and reveals invisible assessment clues. Monitoring a patient’s nutritional options, their access to housing, or the livability of their home could be communicated nonverbally through visual cues.
Accepting the role as an interdepartmental mediator, Alison infuses her patient-centered perspective into her IT procedures. In the interview with Raymond Barrett (CEO of the Telehealth Certification Institute), Alison recounts how her choices often revert back to her patients. Since text messages can be more accessible than internet applications, Alison knew that this was a mandatory feature for Urban Health Plan’s telemedicine strategy.
Alison has estimated that they have blasted over 200,000 texts since March. Staying grounded with her patients has helped smooth over the strain of the merge. But even though the platform is up and running, Alison hasn’t neglected quality control. She continues to advocate for new services—and modifications to existing ones—that increase patient flexibility.