CHI Health’s website has recorded almost 70,000 visits over the past 10 days — people concerned that their symptoms might match those of the coronavirus.
That’s thousands of people who didn’t arrive unannounced at area hospitals, overwhelming health care workers and putting those workers and patients at risk. That’s the goal of CHI Health and other hotlines that have been started.
“We’re preventing a whole bunch of people who wouldn’t need testing all showing up to a clinic at the same time and possibly swapping (for) a different infection,” said Dr. David Quimby, CHI Health infectious disease specialist.
Since CHI Health added a coronavirus tab to its website March 8, it’s had 67,513 page views. There were 397 people who needed to speak to a provider; 52 were referred to a designated CHI Health clinic in Omaha for more testing.
People worried about their symptoms can visit CHIHealth.com and click on the coronavirus (COVID-19) page.
You’ll be asked to answer three questions: Have you recently traveled to an area with a known local spread of COVID-19? Have you come in close contact with someone who has COVID-19? Do you have a fever greater than 100.4 degrees or symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing?
Quimby said the first question applies to more than overseas travel.
“You could have been exposed in California or New York,” he said.
As you click “yes” or “no” on the questions, the website tells you what you should do. Some people are being referred to the CDC website or the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services for more information. If you answer “yes” to questions 2 and 3, you’re asked to call your primary care provider or CHI Health’s care team.
A provider, doctor or nurse practitioner will call you back within 30 minutes, and drill down on your responses.
The team is operating from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. After hours, you can visit chihealth.com/virtualcare.
The provider may tell the person who called to stay at home and self-quarantine for 14 days. Or they could recommend that the person go to a designated CHI Health center for screening.
“We have a designated clinic we can send that patient to,” said Julie Gernetzke, CHI health division vice president of operations. “The patient will arrive and be assessed by the providers there.”
CHI Health has the ability to independently screen 500 people daily. If the number of people with symptoms increases, that number could expand. The screening is free.
“We definitely have enough people to support the volume,” Gernetzke said. “Depending on the volume, we can call providers in to help support it.”
People who don’t have access to a computer should call their physician or the Douglas County Health Department at 402-444-3400.
Based on the number of people using the website, Quimby and Gernetzke said they can see there is a high level of anxiety about catching the disease.
“It’s great to help alleviate the fear and concern that is out there,” Gernetzke said.