Telemedicine at the Ready: MyUPMC Responds as Demand for Virtual Visits Skyrockets

By: Alex Nixon and Teagan K. Maguire

As COVID-19 continues to impact patients throughout Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland, UPMC has been encouraging patients to schedule appointments with their primary care physicians and specialists as virtual video visits through mobile app MyUPMC, which has been the focus of major upgrades in recent years.

Originally introduced in 2018, the app has ever-increasing functionality, from online scheduling to access to care options. While MyUPMC was already experiencing an uptick in activity on the platform before COVID-19, the shift to online care led a 200% increase in sign-ups for MyUPMC in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

“MyUPMC is serving as the digital front door for our patients, which is now more important than ever,” said Katie Scott, vice president of digital strategy and innovation, UPMC Enterprises. Scott, who is leading the technology enhancements for MyUPMC, continued, “As fewer people enter our physical front doors, MyUPMC is serving as the delivery method for a tremendous number of virtual care encounters, a patient need that has grown exponentially.”

Opening the Digital Front Door 

Before COVID-19, MyUPMC video visits were averaging 20 to 30 per day. At peak usage during the pandemic, the average had shot up to 5,000 to 6,000 a day. Inbound messages to providers via MyUPMC also increased significantly as more patients utilized the secure messaging function on the platform.

“We are providing a consumer-friendly platform that is making it easier and more convenient for patients to communicate with their providers and access care,” Scott said. “Now that patients are accessing care in this way, we expect them to continue using MyUPMC at higher volumes post-COVID-19.”

For urgent care needs, UPMC AnywhereCare has been the primary telemedicine platform for patients. Many who have questions or concerns about potential COVID-19 symptoms are using AnywhereCare to be seen quickly by an on-call clinician.

Like MyUPMC, AnywhereCare experienced a large increase in demand from patients. The average number of patient encounters on AnywhereCare increased from less than 100 to about 400 per day during the pandemic. UPMC AnywhereCare providers can see five times as many patients as they could at an office because of the streamlining that virtual visits allow.

Providing Critical Care in Pittsburgh and Beyond 

In addition to caring for patients locally, critical care specialists are using telemedicine to connect with providers who may be hundreds of miles away, greatly expanding the reach of UPMC’s world-class care.

This tele-ICU capability is making it easier to provide the very highest level of care to more patients, including those at New York Presbyterian, who were treated by UPMC physicians at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City. When more providers were needed to care for the mass influx of critically ill patients, UPMC was able to respond with the help of technology.

This is the third article in a four-part series about the impact of telemedicine at UPMC during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to read the previous story, and the final installment will publish next Friday.