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'Coco' Clinic offers medical care to COVID-19 confirmed patients

Medical students and residents are working with confirmed coronavirus patients in Hillsborough County to track symptoms and offer virtual care.

TAMPA, Fla. — Medical minds in Hillsborough County have been collaborating since the coronavirus hit in March.

One project taking off is the Coco Clinic or "COVID Confirmed Clinic", a partnership between the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, the Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida, and Tampa General Hospital.

The clinic sets out to accomplish two main goals:

1) Make sure every coronavirus patient has access to healthcare: Uninsured and underprivileged people who contract COVID-19 could be left without a doctor or medical professional to turn to. That's where the clinic steps in to offer accessible and consistent medical guidance.

2) Do everything possible to keep infected people at home: Using technology, the staff at the clinic is able to reach people through telehealth practices either by phone or video chat. This model keeps an infected person at home in isolation while also prevents unnecessary use of hospital resources.

Dr. Elimarys Perez-Colon supervises the Coco Clinic staff which is made up of USF medical students, residents, nurse practitioner students, and other medical trainees.

At the time this story was written, the clinic has seen 800 patients since opening in March. According to the Florida Department of Health, Hillsborough County has had 1,476 positive residents as of May 15, 2020.

Confirmed COVID-19 patients are connected with the clinic through the Hillsborough County Health Department, Tampa General Hospital, and USF.

Medical staffers usually begin by getting some baseline demographics about the patient and evaluate how often they need check-ups. This could be done virtually or in-person if the situation warrants it.

The clinic offers a way for the patient to communicate regularly with medical professionals who can asses their symptoms, vitals, and mental state among other things.

Contact the Coco Clinic: The best way to contact the clinic is through the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine. Call (813) 974-7616 and ask to be directed to the Coco Clinic.

The student-run telehealth clinic came to be when so many med students were left with extra time on their hands after the state stopped elective surgeries and other non-essential medical care.

While also helping patients, the clinic is able to provide research and more comprehensive data to the Department of Health.

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