UMMC announces plans to use telehealth and mobile site to speed up COVID-19 screening/testing

Updated: Mar. 20, 2020 at 7:43 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As the cases of COVID-19 across Mississippi increase, so are the options for screening and testing. But it doesn’t involve ever stepping foot in a doctor’s office.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center is partnering with several state agencies and C-Spire to make it happen. The model that’s been created is intended to prevent a bottleneck of folks at the mobile testing site on the State Fairgrounds.

“It’s not open to the general public, "explained Dr. Jonathan Wilson, UMMC Chief Administrative Officer. "We will paralyze our process if it were to be open to the general public. We would also, frankly, be wasting precious testing supplies on individuals that may not need it. So, it’s critical that we go through the screening process to identify the high-risk patients that need to be tested.”

That screening won’t be done in person. A public-private partnership with CSpire will allow a telehealth screening or even a phone call for those without a smart phone.

“Scheduling COVID-19 test is logistically challenging," noted C Spire President/CEO Hu Meena. "This app provides the solution to scheduling test with UMMC.”

If the criteria is met during that screening, you’ll be given a next day appointment to come get a test at this mobile site. Because UMMC made changes internally with things like cancelling non-emergency surgeries, their employees are prepared to man the site.

“We would schedule 128 appointments today," said Dr. Alan Jones, UMMC chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine. "So the maximum number of testing appointments we would do would be 128. So that’s 9 AM to 5 PM 16 appointments an hour.”

But there’s no playbook on this. UMMC is using best practices but they know there will be variables they can’t account for.

“Be patient," requested Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC’s Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine. "We are learning on the fly. We have not had time to pilot this and bear with us. I promise you we are all doing everything we can do.”

Screenings on the app begin Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. and testing at the fairgrounds will start Tuesday at 9:00 a.m.

This is the starting point but the model is expected to be used elsewhere.

“The hope is that we have a telehealth screening process statewide but then high-risk patients are referred to the closest geographically located site collection point,” added Dr. Wilson.

UMMC is also working to develop an in-house test. They hope to have that available in the next week.

That would also increase the number of tests available in the state and alleviate the work being done at the state lab.


- If you have symptoms including cough, fever, shortness of breath or sore throat, use the free app, C Spire Health UMMC Virtual COVID-19 Triage, created by the Medical Center and C Spire.

- The app is downloadable March 23rd from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Those who have already downloaded the existing C Spire Health telehealth app will need to make sure their app is updated Monday to reflect the UMMC Virtual COVID-19 Triage usage.

- Screenings on the app will available from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m., seven days a week, beginning Monday. You’ll be seen by a UMMC clinician via the app.

- If you are found to be at high risk, you will receive a next-day appointment for collection of samples at the Fairgrounds. Plans are to schedule 128 appointments per day. If those appointments fill, callers will be asked to try back the next day for screening and a potential appointment.

- No one will get out of their vehicle at the mobile testing site. Providers wearing protective gear will come to their window and swab their noses to retrieve specimens for testing to be performed at the Mississippi State Department of Health.

- UMMC will notify those tested of the results and give further instructions.

- DO NOT drive up to the State Fairgrounds and expect to be tested if you have not previously been screened and referred there for an appointment. Walk-ups or those in Uber, Lyft or other ride-sharing services will not be allowed.

- The screening and testing are at no cost.

*Those without a smartphone showing symptoms and who want to be screened can call 601-496-7200.

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