UVA students collecting smart devices to give to senior and low-income patients

Updated: Jul. 19, 2020 at 8:20 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Students at the University of Virginia are encouraging people to donate old smartphones and tablets to give to senior and low-income patients at the Charlottesville Free Clinic for access to telehealth services.

“Some people do recycle them [smart devices] but some people keep them in case and then end up no using it,” third-year student Anika Iyer said. It’d definitely gratifying to be able to take that and then reuse it for an even greater cause.”

Student volunteers like Iyer are collecting devices to connect Charlottesville’s most vulnerable populations with health care workers without risking their health.

“Instead of going to a hospital or a clinic, and risking yourself potentially, you could do this online,” third-year student Rachana Subbanna said.

Iyer said almost 100% of appointments at the clinic are now online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but not every patient has reliable access to virtual care.

“When you look at seniors, only about half, like 5 out of 10 seniors actually own a smart device from which they can do telemedicine,” Iyer said. “It just so happens that seniors are also the most at risk not only for COVID, but also for chronic conditions which they need to have constant check ups from their doctor for,”

More than 20 devices have been collected so far to meet the growing need. Third-year student Tanvi Mallanagula said patients also receive instructional support when they receive their device.

“We give them manuals along with the devices so that gives them a basic overview on how to connect to wi-fi or FaceTime or call someone,” Mallanagula said.

The virtual support goes beyond connecting patients to health professionals.

“We also help them with getting essentials, like getting groceries and trips to the pharmacy, like how to virtually order groceries. Getting the app and the steps, working them through that so they not only have to go out for doctor’s appointments but so they can have their groceries delivered to their home,” Iyer said.

Volunteers are encouraging people to also donate any phone chargers and accessories to the clinic, or to give monetarily if able.

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