RIDGELAND — Few private companies have mobilized efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic like Ridgeland-based C Spire.

C Spire customers were pleased over the weekend with text messages telling them that the company was providing an extra 25 gigabytes of data to all customers as long as everyone was being advised to shelter in place.

 

The company is also offering data to schools in its geographical footprint that are quickly mobilizing distance learning programs.

But by far the most aggressive step C Spire has taken is to partner with the University of Mississippi Medical Center to implement free telehealth visits with UMMC doctors for Mississippians who have the coronavirus.

The company’s C-Spire Health application, which was already being used by UMMC clinicians to treat a wide variety of minor, non-emergency conditions such as cold flu, nausea, ear infections and migraine headaches, has been transformed into a tool focused solely on combating the spread of the virus in Mississippi.

Until the pandemic is under control, C Spire Health is only serving those with fevers, coughing, respiratory issues and other symptoms related to the virus. The app is not designed to replace a user’s normal primary care physician.

Patrons do not need to be C Spire customers to access the app. Internet access is required, however, and the app works only through mobile phones at the moment, not tablets or laptops.

Users can start by downloading the C Spire Health app and follow on-screen prompts. A UMMC clinician will assess and provide care guidance for each individuals’ symptoms, and may order a COVID-19 test for a patient if it’s deemed necessary. Any credit card or debit card information transferred on the app is stored in a secure, HIPAA-compliant technological vault.

Once registered in the system, patients can schedule appointments with just a few taps, and will not be required to re-enter personal data, so long as the intitial information remains the same.

As UMMC Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Wilson, a medical doctor, explained, said, the app should help avoid a bottleneck at several mobile testing facilities set up across the state.

“(The testing facility) is not open to the general public,” Wilson explained. “We will paralyze our process if it were to be open to the general public. We would also, frankly, be wasting precious testing supplies on individuals who may not need it. So, it’s critical that we go through the screening process to identify the high-risk patients that need to be tested.”

Dr. Alan Jones, another UMMC spokeman and the chair of the hospital’s Department of Emergency Medicine, said last week UMMC can currently schedule 128 appointments a day — 16 per hour, for eight hours a day — at the drive-thru testing facilities.

UMMC has delayed all non-emergency surgeries in order to free up employees to man the testing facilities and combat the symptoms of existing confirmed COVID-19 patients.

UMMC clinicians are available through the app from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. Visits through the C Spire Health app are free for a limited time to anyone located in Mississippi.

Mississippi has the 12th-highest COVID-19 infection rate of any state in the U.S. based on the total number of confirmed cases, although numbers tend to fluctuate daily.

As of Tuesday, Mississippi had 11 cases for every 100,000 people.

For more information or instructions on downloading the C Spire Health app, visit www.cspire.com/cms/wireless/cspire-health.