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COCO Clinic helps Tampa Bay area COVID-19 patients recover

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Posted at 5:46 PM, Jun 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-16 18:03:35-04

TAMPA, Fla.—Some coronavirus patients can face a long road to recovery. Healthcare workers and medical students in the Tampa Bay area want to make that road a little smoother, thanks to a telemedicine outpatient clinic.

“None of us want to sit on the sidelines in a pandemic,” said USF medical student Aaron Tolpin.

Since the end of March, Tolpin and other students have gotten first-hand experience helping COVID-19 patients.

“We’re making sure that the people that are at highest risk are taken care of and making sure hopefully nothing bad happens to them,” said Tolpin.

The COVID-19 Confirmed Clinic, or the Coco Clinic, is an outpatient telehealth collaboration between USF Health, Tampa General Hospital, and the health department in Hillsborough County. Residents, medical and nurse practitioner students, and faculty help run the Coco Clinic.

The goal is to help COVID-19 patients recover at home rather than at a hospital and give proper follow up to vulnerable populations, including the under and uninsured.

“As of today, we crossed the mark of 2,900 patients, which is about 72% of all of the COVID cases in Hillsborough County,” said Dr. Elimarys Perez-Colon, the clinic’s medical director.

Medical volunteers will call patients first and figure out their risk level. They’ll then continue follow-up calls or do virtual screenings, even remote vital monitoring.

“Let’s say someone’s oxygen drops too low,” said Tolpin. “We’ll actually receive a notification about it and reach out to them, and we’ll try to figure out what’s going on.”

They can also schedule in-person visits. Patients are referred to the clinic through the health department, Tampa General, and USF.

“We often think that the recovery process ends when the patient gets out of the hospital, but that is not accurate. That’s actually when it begins,” said Dr. Perez-Colon.