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 a few, like UC Davis’ 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.
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.”
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 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.”