Leanne Jeong, a rising junior at Emory University, said many Americans find themselves suffering from chronic health conditions, but are unable to contact their physicians, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, because they do not have access to camera-enabled devices.
“I realized there was a simple solution – connect older Americans to donated devices we can collect from family, friends, businesses, schools and more,” she said.
Jeong, who is originally from Alabama but moved to Johns Creek for college, joined the nonprofit TeleHealth Access for Seniors as the state lead in mid-June. The nonprofit, which was created by students at Yale University, collects old camera-enabled devices for low-income and elderly patients across Georgia.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has been at the forefront of access to health care because it helps to reduce the likelihood of exposure to the coronavirus.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, telehealth refers broadly to electronic and telecommunications technologies and services used to provide care and services at-a-distance. This ensures patients are able to attend important check-ups, medical appointments and more.
“Along with devices,” Jeong said, “we recognized patients need help in learning how to use devices. We have created simple and easy to use guides that clinics hand out with the devices that explain how to use various TeleHealth apps, how to use FaceTime to connect to family and friends, how to order grocery delivery and how to order pharmacy delivery. Additionally, we have volunteers offering ‘tech-support’ through the phone and email to help patients as well.”
TeleHealth Access for Seniors has already expanded to 26 states with 120 volunteers and has donated more than 700 devices. In Georgia, the nonprofit is partnering with South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta and Mercy Care in Atlanta to donate devices to their patients. The clinics will determine which patients are most in need.
But what truly inspired Jeong to get involved with the nonprofit are the personal stories she’s heard from people who have benefited from telehealth during the pandemic.
“My really good family friend is immunocompromised and she actually uses telemedicine to contact her oncologist, and it’s been so helpful for her and she feels safe at her home by not having to go outside to risk her health,” Jeong said. “She’s a mom of two, so of course she wants to stay healthy. I think just personal stories like that of people using telemedicine has inspired me to take on this role.”
TeleHealth Access for Seniors is also raising money through a GoFundMe page to purchase chargers and supplies for the devices that have been collected so far.
At Emory Univeristy, Jeong is majoring in neuroscience and behavioral biology, as well as piano performing track music. She is also a member of a pre-health organization called Remote Area Medical, which provides free health care to those without insurance or in rural areas.
“This is a very unique time,” Jeong said. “We’re all trying to be flexible and adapt to this new situation, but there are some people who need more help than the situations that we’re in and it would be great to see elders and people with low income be able to receive the health care access that they received before the pandemic. I can’t imagine how much harder it’s been due to COVID, but hopefully this small donation will make a difference.”
For more information or to donate a device, visit www.telehealthforseniors.org. To make a monetary donation, visit https://gf.me/u/x5hfv3 and mention Jeong to ensure the funds go to help patients in Georgia.