COVID-19: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”

Author and Disclosure Information


While initially available only to Cleveland Clinic staff, the Cleveland Clinic Response to COVID-19 Digital Health Playbook is now accessible to the medical community at large via the Cleveland Clinic Web site (learn more at and a link from the US Department of Health and Human Services Web site.

What we accomplished

Within 1 week, providers who previously had little experience conducting virtual visits were helping out like seasoned professionals, and we were able to reduce wait times back to pre-COVID-19 levels while performing 8000 virtual visits in a single week. Those who were less fluent with virtual visits contributed by assessing the queue to identify patients who would be well handled with a telephone encounter; this helped to successfully meet patients’ needs and alleviate the burden on the system.

The capacity to accommodate (more) remote visits became increasingly important when, as happened in many states, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced social-­distancing measures and restriction of business in response to the growing surge of COVID-19 cases. This culminated in a stay-at-home order issued on March 22.

With care needs increasing, the early experience gained by our primary care teams was an invaluable asset as we transitioned patients who had upcoming in-person evaluation and management visits to virtual, phone, and e-Visits. Daily huddles were instituted to help with this process, and additional training materials and support tools were created and uploaded to an easily accessible online “toolkit.”

When the volume of video visits overwhelmed the ECO platform, upgrades were made to accommodate increased bandwidth and traffic. Permission was also granted to utilize FaceTime and Google Duo for visits, provided patients gave consent (and in accordance with HIPAA COVID-19 guidelines), when and if a disconnection occurred due to volume overloads.

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