Assessing and Responding to Patients in the COVID-19 Era

A Student-Run Free Clinic’s Use of Telehealth


Background: In March 2020, the University of California, San Diego Student-Run Free Clinic Project (SRFCP) transitioned to telehealth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home executive order. SRFCP patients, many of whom suffer from chronic diseases and lack health insurance, require health care maintenance, food, and emotional support. 

Methods: Data was pulled from patient charts regarding age, sex, date of visit, and mode of communication between March 16 and June 30, 2020. Responses to a COVID-19 specific needs assessment were analyzed with regard to being at high risk for COVID-19, food security, and emotional well-being. Number of psychiatry referrals and number of food deliveries during this period were also gathered from weekly schedules and from Epic, our electronic health record system.

Results: A total of 585 primary care visits occurred in our specified time frame, of which approximately 34% were conducted by video. Across all four clinic locations, 314 unique patients were seen by medical teams. Three-fourths of patients were female, and 85% were considered high-risk. Patients across all age groups were determined to be at high risk for COVID-19. Additionally, 25% of respondents expressed concerns about their emotional well-being, and 25% indicated current or imminent lack of food at the time of their visit. A total of 533 food prescriptions were delivered to patients, and 21 referrals were made to the psychology and psychiatry specialty care clinics.

Conclusion: The SRFCP rapidly implemented telehealth visits, and established and enhanced programs to better support patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. This made possible by incredible collaboration between medical students, volunteers, staff, physicians, and community organizations.

*Authors Claire Rose Conklin and Siddharth Niranjan Machiraju contributed equally to this work.

How to Cite
Conklin, C., Machiraju, S., Chen, M., & Johnson, M. (2020). Assessing and Responding to Patients in the COVID-19 Era. Free Clinic Research Collective, 6(1). Retrieved from