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SEARHC Incident Command Discusses Telehealth, Travel, Testing

SITKA – The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Incident Command met on Tuesday, April 14, and discussed the latest updates on telehealth, testing, travel, and more in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With many service lines focusing on virtual appointments to provide patient care, SEARHC is days away from introducing Doxy.me to expand the Consortium’s telehealth capabilities. The software is encrypted and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant. SEARCH Information Technology staff are working to distribute cellular-capable iPads to remote locations next week to assist with the introduction of telehealth in our smaller communities. With improved telehealth options, the Incident Command System (ICS) team is working to re-establish the specialty clinic line utilizing virtual appointments.

“Our essential service lines remain open, with virtual visits being used for patient care whenever possible,” said SEARHC Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elliot Bruhl. “Adding Doxy.me to our repertoire will maximize the impact of our telehealth appointments, providing a level of privacy and security that is approved by healthcare organizations around the world. The dashboard option will allow providers to better plan for, and interact with, their patients across several device platforms.”

The ICS confirmed that the first Abbott Laboratories rapid test machines have been delivered to several designated facilities. In the near future, the communities of Sitka, Juneau, Klawock, Haines, Wrangell, Kake, Hoonah, Gustavus, and Angoon will all be capable of turning around COVID-19 tests in-house in approximately 15 minutes. Machines and test kits for the nine communities are being distributed by three different sources – Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), Indian Health Services (IHS) and the State of Alaska. Supply kits for rapid tests are limited and reserved for highly prioritized cases.

Realizing that smaller SEARHC communities may have limited housing options should patients require quarantine outside of their home, ICS has identified multiple options for housing and supporting patients at Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center (MEMC). MEMC can support not only patients from outlying areas in need of isolation and quarantine, but those who are ill or need complex care.

For patients who test positive for COVID-19 or are a person under investigation awaiting test results while self-isolating, home kits are being assembled for distribution throughout the Consortium. These kits will include standard cleaning supplies, hygiene supplies, and helpful information to navigate the process post-confirmation or during quarantine.

Current information on COVID-19 and the SEARHC response, including current testing data for the region, is available on the COVID-19 Resource Page at covid19.searhc.org. To direct COVID-19-related Executive Offices | 3100 Channel Drive, Ste. 300, Juneau, AK 99801 | 907.463.4000 | searhc.org questions to a representative during regular business hours, call the SEARHC COVID-19 Hotline at 907.966.8799.