The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped health care throughout the region, including at student-run clinics. Some are temporarily closed or providing only essential services while the stay-at-home order is in effect. A few, like Clínica Tepati, are using telehealth to maintain, and even expand, access to care.
“Ironically, the move to telehealth visits has allowed us to offer care seven days a week rather than just once a week for in-person visits,” said clinic director and physician Brenden Tu.
All 12 student-run clinics offer free health care in convenient locations. Clínica, typically open Saturdays in midtown Sacramento, primarily serves Latino communities. The care team is known for their unity, which helped them quickly transition to electronic-based care.
“Closing down entirely simply wasn’t an option,” said Clínica’s chairman and medical student Dagoberto Piña. “We have regular patients who rely on us.”
Students began the transition by calling all of their patients from the past 18 months to let them know of the temporary closure and advise them that they could have their appointments by video or phone.
Serving existing patients and more
To reach even more in their community students communicated their transition to telehealth to the Mexican Consulate to relay it to the Latinx community. Emailed appointment requests are reviewed by undergraduates and distributed among medical students, who consult with supervising physicians on care plans.
“It’s a lot like the way we work in clinic, just using a computer, tablet or phone,” Piña said.
Given the broad effects of the stay-at-home order on lives and livelihoods, the students also inquire about patients’ needs beyond health. If necessary, patients are connected with available social services. Clínica Tepati also provides the opportunity for financial assistance in the form of gift cards funded by their own savings, grants and donations.
The team may continue to offer telehealth visits after the clinic reopens, perhaps for follow-up or when in-person appointments are not possible. Piña, however, is looking forward to seeing patients again in clinic.
“There are exceptional benefits to e-consults,” Piña said, “but they can’t replace the value of an in-person exam to building trust and making an accurate diagnosis.”
Details about Clínica Tepati, including donating or volunteering as a preceptor, are available at clinicatepati.com.
Information about all student-run clinics, including changes during the COVID-19 crisis, is at health.ucdavis.edu/mdprogram/studentlife/clinics.
More about the commitment of UC Davis Health to low-income patients and medically underserved communities is here.