Penn State Health Embraces Telemedicine in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Katy Mena-Berkley
Thursday, June 4, 2020

Penn State Health OnDemand offers social distancing options for individuals in need of medical services.

Since “15 Days to Slow the Spread” was announced in the middle of March, clinicians and patients alike have been trying to navigate the unknown and prioritize health. The newest strain of the coronavirus has everyone in every industry scrambling, searching for ways to stay afloat until the nation is able to reclaim its collective balance.

As COVID-19 demands the time and attention of physicians around the globe, other diseases and health challenges wait in the wings. While heart disease, pregnancy and neurologic conditions are not currently the stars of the show, these conditions still require the utmost attention, albeit from a safe social distance. In each instance, the virtual healthcare services provided by Penn State Health OnDemand are essential.

“We are all about keeping everyone safe, including our providers, our patients and those who are at the front lines of the COVID-19 care efforts,” says Chris DeFlitch, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Penn State Health Vice President and Chief Medical Information Officer and Professor at Penn State College of Medicine. “Smart use of technology goes a long way. And I think telehealth is one of those opportunities to help.”

An Array of Virtual Care

A myriad of services offered to providers and patients for the past several years, Penn State telehealth began as a way to deliver remote care to patients in the region. Through virtual capabilities, patients with suspected stroke were taken to partner hospitals and the stroke team would complete a virtual call with a provider at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to discuss the best course of treatment.

Telehealth services have gradually expanded since its initial usage for treating stroke and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, as well as dermatology consults, to include the Penn State Health OnDemand urgent care application, which connects patients with board-certified doctors via unlimited video visits available 24/7. It also allows patients to schedule virtual primary care appointments with their own Penn State Health providers. OnDemand services have proven to be the lifeblood of the local medical industry in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We spent a few years pushing a boulder up the hill, and now we’re chasing the boulder down the hill because we’re scrambling to deploy as much of the technology as you get at the provider’s office on the platform,” says Christopher LaCoe, Vice President of Operations, Penn State Health. “This crisis that’s affecting so many people has really created an incubator for innovation.”

The three main scenarios in which patients and physicians may benefit from Penn State Health OnDemand include:

  • COVID-19 screenings (free of charge), as well as guidance for next steps, if necessary
  • On-demand urgent care for consultation, diagnosis and prescriptions
  • Scheduled virtual visits for patients to speak directly with their providers

“We are trying to do as much as we possibly can in order to deliver key services, starting with primary care,” LaCoe says. “There is so much possibility here.”


To learn more about Penn State Health’s OnDemand, visit, hmc.pennstatehealth.org/ondemand-overview.