Oregon Health & Science University has unveiled a toll-free hotline for people anywhere in the state to seek guidance about symptoms and care for COVID-19. The hotline, or Connected Care Center, is staffed by OHSU registered nurses and other clinicians.
Oregonians can call 833-OHSU-CCC (833-647-8222) if they are worried about being able to access care for symptoms of the novel coronavirus. The hotline is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.
The hotline is made possible with the support of a $1.6 million gift from the Andrew and Corey Morris-Singer Foundation, intended to support patients, the broader community and health care clinicians across the state. The first phase of the buildout focused on providing a resource to OHSU patients.
As Oregon’s academic health center, OHSU is working to ensure all Oregonians can get access to care from a clinician during the pandemic. The hotline will address the needs of:
• Oregonians who don’t already have a primary care clinician
• Health care clinicians and practice managers seeking advice about patients with COVID-19
Nurses can evaluate symptoms of concern over the phone, and, if necessary, direct callers to a virtual visit using two-way video with a clinician, said Eric Herman, M.D., chief primary care and population health officer for OHSU Health. The hotline is currently staffed by a pool of 12 to 15 registered nurses working from their own homes.
“We can expand it based on the need and public demand,” Herman said.
Herman said the hotline is also useful for clinicians and practice managers from around the state seeking advice about topics such as conserving personal protective equipment, adapting clinics to prevent the spread of the virus and other operational questions.
Many of the clinicians staffing the hotline are ordinarily assigned to units involved in surgical procedures that are currently suspended to make room at OHSU for an expected surge of people with COVID-19. Others come from areas in the hospital and ambulatory care clinics. The group convenes daily to air common questions and update a reference guide with frequently asked questions.
Herman said several of OHSU’s ambulatory clinics first established a line for a few nurses to help answer phone calls early in the crisis.
“Nurses were getting inundated with calls from anxious and understandably concerned patients,” he said. “People wanted to come in and get immediate answers to all of their questions.”
The Singer Foundation grant enabled OHSU to significantly ramp up staffing for the hotline and associated telemedicine services.
Telemedicine is a critical tool to support Oregon’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” initiative, which includes a statewide stay-at-home order, school closures and other measures to contain the spread of the virus. OHSU’s ambulatory teams have exponentially expanded telemedicine services to meet the needs of patients while maintaining physical distancing.
The growth of telehealth services reflects the fact that many people infected by COVID-19 most likely will not need to go to a clinic or a hospital, although some may have symptoms that require further evaluation or testing.
Whatever level of care callers need, hotline teams are ready to triage them to the right place. Virtual visits are available for all callers, and in-person care for callers in the Portland area can be routed to OHSU respiratory care clinics at Physicians Pavilion on Marquam Hill and Orenco Station in Hillsboro. Patients who already have a primary care physician will be encouraged to maintain care in their home clinic. All callers who qualify can be tested at OHSU’s mobile testing sites.
Community clinicians and practices can also call the hotline or they can email CCCoperations@ohsu.edu with questions about managing coronavirus patients or modifying clinic operations during the pandemic.