Bellville Medical Center announced the launch of a telemedicine program on June 2 via a press release. The new service was launched to provide convenience and allow patients to avoid having to visit BMC offices during the COVID-19 pandemic whether they need care for their physical or mental health.
“By doing this, we are bringing the physicians to the community,” Bellville Medical Center CEO Juanita Romans said in a June 11 phone interview of the newly launched telehealth initiative. “Normally you’d have to bring specialists to your ER and have them treat there but this way, we can bring the specialists right to the community, virtually.”
Regular telehealth visits began June 2 with physicians available between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for virtual visits. Coming in the next few weeks will be neurology and psychology specialists, Romans said, all of whom will be able to prescribe medication through the virtual consultation.
“For any of our residents in the community, in Bellville or Sealy, if they’re at home and are having a medical issue going on and they want to talk to someone about the next steps or what to do they’ll be able to call us at the hospital here and speak to a physician,” said Dr. Hasan Kakli, BMC’s Emergency Department Medical Director, in a June 2 video statement. “The number is 979-413-7400 and you’ll speak to a live person immediately, we’ll get you into the system and when the doctor is ready, you’ll get a call back to have your live consultation.”
Kakli said sometimes the result of the consultation is a visit to the emergency room in either Bellville or Sealy or a regular appointment with the primary care physician but reiterated that prescription needs can be identified electronically and sent to the pharmacy immediately after a televisit.
Romans said the telemedicine plans had been in the works and got started for coronavirus-related conferences at the end of April. In the coming weeks, she said the neurology and psychology options will also be available for virtual conferences.
Kakli said access to mental health care via telehealth visits is important for BMC patients in another video update released June 9.
“It’s something that we see a lot of in the ER and frankly we should because our job is to see anyone that thinks they are having a medical emergency,” Kakli said. “I can tell you that my patients who come in with a mental health crisis are in just as much of an emergency as my patients who come in for a heart attack or stroke or any kind of physical trauma.”
He said that mental health emergencies can induce physical pain because the same sensors in the brain that correspond to pain are being activated but Kakli said the doctors are focused on treatment, whatever the ailment.
“The role in the emergency room is to make sure there is nothing else going on that could be acting like a mental health emergency; to make sure you’re not having a heart attack, that you’re not having a
physical health emergency,” Kakli said. “Once we identify it’s a mental health emergency, we can get the process started about getting the help that you need and getting you where you need to go.”
Kakli provided details of a 24-hour mental health crisis hotline operated by the Texana Center which serves Austin, Colorado and Waller Counties. They can be found at TexanaCenter.com or reached on the phone at 1-800-633-5686.
“It’s OK to not feel OK, that’s always the first step on the road to recovery,” Kakli concluded.