WMU telehealth: Is the doctor in? Yes!

Contact: Deanne Puca

Dr. Gayle Ruggiero explains how telehealth services work at Sindecuse Health Center.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Teleconferencing is helping doctors and physician assistants at Western Michigan University’s Sindecuse Health Center continue to care for patients during a time of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Telehealth visits are a way to continue to provide care for patients seeking primary care, counseling and psychiatric services.

Similar to an in-person visit, telehealth appointments use video to have a conversation by computer, tablet or smartphone with a provider. Health care privacy and security rights are respected, and visits are secure and not recorded. A provider will recommend follow-up care if a patient needs to be seen for an in-person visit or have lab work completed.

Dr. Gayle Ruggiero, medical director at Sindecuse, says health center staff are making it a priority to be accessible to patients and to make patients feel comfortable with the remote format.

“Telehealth is something we wanted to explore as a health care center for a long time. But, because we’ve had very strong in-person connections with our students, faculty and staff, it didn’t need to be done up until this point,” she says, adding the response has been very positive.

Making care available and accessible at this time is essential, says Ruggiero, who also is a psychiatrist.

Photo of a person typing on a laptop at a desk.

Sindecuse Health Center is taking patients via teleconferencing regarding primary care, counseling and psychiatric services.

Ruggiero says the usual anxieties people experience may be exacerbated by current conditions. Some don't have experience with limitations to social gathering, "so it’s been challenging for people to continue to engage but also remaining physically distant from others.”

She adds “that also is a challenge as a provider. We’re used to engaging people in person, and we have to transition that to make people feel comfortable wherever their setting is to be able to share intimate information with us so we can provide care to them.”

Tips to navigate your emotional health during the COVID-19 outbreak include maintaining a sleep schedule, eating consistently and being physically active. Ruggiero adds engaging with others remotely or through social distancing also has positive effects on a person’s health.

“Although you need to be physically distant from others, engaging in an emotional way with other people is important. We need that kind of social connection in order to be able to feel support around us,” she says.

If you have questions, the Sindecuse staff is available to help.

“There are no silly questions,” Ruggiero insists. “We are navigating this together, and so, if you have a question about something that you need help with, we encourage you to reach out and let us know.”

Patients are asked to call the health center at (269) 387-3287 to make an appointment for primary care and not use the Sindecuse portal to schedule. Counseling appointments can be made at (269) 387-1850.

Appointments are scheduled during Sindecuse’s regular business hours, Monday through Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Drive-up services only at the Sindecuse pharmacy are also available during those hours.

For more information on telehealth and to get ready for your appointment, visit the center online.

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