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Harvard University Health Services Unveils Video Appointment Services

Harvard University Health Services expanded telemedicine offerings Tuesday.
Harvard University Health Services expanded telemedicine offerings Tuesday. By Shera S. Avi-Yonah
By Fiona K. Brennan, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard University Health Services is now providing video appointments for its services, which include internal medicine, urgent care, counseling and mental health services, and behavioral health, according to a Tuesday email from HUHS chief medical officer Soheyla D. Gharib.

Since most students departed campus last month, HUHS only provided a telephone option for non-essential visits. Now, patients will be able to connect with HUHS health professionals on a version of Zoom that complies with federal patient privacy regulations.

Gharib wrote that HUHS is trying to continue patient care while complying with social distancing measures to limit the spread of coronavirus.

“During these unprecedented times, we want to ensure that you receive the care you need while upholding vitally important social distancing measures that minimize the number of patients at HUHS,” she wrote.

According to an FAQ page about telemedicine on the HUHS website, clinicians will not be able to diagnose patients with coronavirus over video appointments. They will, however, be able to advise patients about steps to take if they experience symptoms of the virus.

“Your clinician cannot diagnose coronavirus during a telehealth visit, but they can offer self-care and quarantine tips, educate patients about when they need to go to a hospital, and if they do, help to coordinate testing,” the FAQ reads.

Clinicians will be able to make some other diagnoses via telemedicine.

“Your clinician will utilize a video camera to conduct your physical exams,” the FAQ reads. “The camera allows your clinician to closely inspect any areas of concern, such as swelling, rashes, or wounds to help make an evidence-based diagnosis.”

Gharib added that telemedicine can be used for a number of other purposes in addition to diagnosing patients.

“Telemedicine can be used as an alternative to traditional in-person care, and in certain circumstances, can be used to deliver care such as diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, and care management,” Gharib wrote. “Telemedicine allows for you to receive evaluation, drug prescriptions, and test orders.”

Telemedicine services will be of no additional cost to students as visits are covered by the Student Health Fee. Additionally, because of regulatory adjustments, HUHS patients will not have to pay out of pocket for these visits.

Gharib noted that, along with the new option for video services, telephone appointments are still available, as are in-person visits for essential and urgent care.

—Staff writer Fiona K. Brennan can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @FionaBrennan23.

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