COLORADO SPRINGS — "It was weird at first, but, now I'm used to it.” Colorado Springs middle school student and Children’s Hospital Colorado patient, Marissa Ferris is talking about her recent COVID-19 initiated, telehealth visits with doctors and therapists. She suffered brain injuries and neuro-damage in a car accident a couple of years back. Staying on track with regular medical rehabilitation is essential to her recovery.
COVID-19 forced a massive shift to virtual healthcare visits. Children's Hospital Colorado has been recording six thousand telehealth visits a week, compared to just a hundred prior to the pandemic. "It's an opportunity that has been out there for a long time and it's one this pandemic has forced us to optimize as quickly as we can," said Children’s Hospital Colorado, Southern Region Chief Operating Officer, Greg Raymond. Amid all the negatives with COVID-19, Children's Hospital leaders see this as a positive.
The COVID-19 clinical related benefits include, safe distancing to prevent spreading or catching covid-19; then, fewer people at the hospital conserves the limited supply of personal protective equipment (PPE). "When we talk about doing 6,000 visits a week through the Children's Hospital Colorado system, that's 6,000 pieces of personal protective equipment that doesn't need to be utilized, that can be focused on the in-patients, or in the operational areas, or in the COVID testing," said Raymond.
Beyond COVID-19 the telehealth option is proving efficient to care caregivers and convenient for patients. "In a way that allows us to provide the care to the broadest number of individuals while doing it in a safe and effective manner," said Raymond.
Virtual visit options have to happen on a case by case basis. Physical exams, laboratory studies, radiology are the type of services still requiring an in-person visit. Telehealth can be considered for actions like follow-ups, home therapy, and pediatric specialist consults. For patients in rural communities, telehealth saves hours of commuting.
The Ferris family was a little cynical at telehealth at first. Marissa’s mother Aimee says they now see some benefits. "We're like alright. Well they can do a great deal of what we're missing out on with the hands-on appointment."
The sooner COVID-19 is gone the better. Telehealth will remain at Children’s Hospital Colorado.