Catalyst - Fall 2020 Vol 3 No 1 | Page 16

An Interview The Two Georgias Initiative Participant: Cynthia George Horizons Community Solutions The Early Cares Coalition What has the pandemic experience been like for you all? We were ground zero for COVID-19 - actually, I believe the first case in Georgia came through our health system. We were very involved. I actually ended up being called in to help the Department of Public Health for two or three days while they didn’t have a Public Information Officer. This (situation) was so unknown to most people, that I really got to learn a lot about what was happening from the inside out. I was only there for two and a half days – it seemed like a month, I think, because of so many things that were going on. By the time I got back to work, we were closing up the office and shutting down, and not knowing how long that would be. Would it be just a week? Who knew! We quickly moved to getting everyone equipped and went through a process of making sure everyone had access to everything they needed, because health navigation is a large part of what we do. So for our patients, obviously, it was critical for us to not miss a beat in that process – not knowing if we were going to be able to continue the cancer screenings that we provide, or if everything was going on hold. That first week was probably a little hectic for everybody, I think we were all in shock, honestly, at what was going on as well. But within a week to ten days, our team was able to transition everything that we do from the office to a home environment, a shelter in place environment. We were able to continue to be in contact with our patients and with our clients. We turned our ‘Prevent Type 2 Diabetes’ program into a virtual program almost overnight. Those programs continued as they were. We adapted very quickly, and I think that just speaks volumes to the flexibility and passion, I think, that our team has for the work that we do. 16 Had you all previously used any telehealth or was this a brand new method that you had to implement overnight? We were doing our work on the phone anyway – the only contact we had with patients was for them to come by and get their prep for a colonoscopy, or for patient assistance, which is where we give gas cards for cancer patients and cancer screening patients who need help in getting to their appointments. Those are the only contacts that we really had. We’ve all experienced telehealth because our physicians were using that, and are still using that here. We didn’t really implement telehealth from a medical standpoint (at Horizons). I think the Type 2 Diabetes classes were more along those lines because they were done virtually. A lot of patients in rural Georgia don’t have internet, and don’t have a computer or a smartphone. The challenge there was trying to connect them to a place that they could go to do their visit online, or just trying to figure out how we could help them. It’s a different situation in rural Georgia for telehealth – it’s a challenge, and it’s something we’ve thought about as an organization, just in conversations and dreaming about the future, of what can our impact be on that. I think telehealth is going to boom because of this, and it makes so much sense. If we can get our part of the state able to participate in that, it would be of great value. I think we would really be able to improve the health among our uninsured and underinsured.