Virtual visits are the new house calls

Amy Robertson, MD, uses telehealth to talk to a patient from an office in the Women’s Health department at SLV Health Regional Medical Center in Alamosa. The technology is now being used throughout SLV Health to connect providers and their patients.

SLV Health has added another technology to their digital toolbox to help patients – this time from the comfort of the patient’s own home.

As a pandemic spread throughout the country, and states started to implement stay-at-home orders and social distancing, the providers, nurses and other staff at SLV Health started looking at other ways they could provide care to their patients in a safe and effective manner. Now, using the same technology that people use every day to talk to their family and friends, patients can now use to talk to their providers at SLV Health.

“Telehealth” is a convenient way for providers and patients to communicate with each other without having to travel to the hospital or clinic to be seen, by using phones or computers that have cameras, microphones and an internet connection. Currently, providers from primary care, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, pediatrics and behavioral health are able to use telehealth to visit with their patients, with all other specialties currently being set up to offer it in the near future. Even prescriptions can be filled using telehealth. For those that don’t have a smart phone, tablet, or computer with camera, phone visits or in-person visits are also being offered, based on the patient’s needs.

“Both new and established patients can be seen using telehealth,” said Mallori Gariner, a nurse practitioner for SLV Health.

Ed Kulp

Ed Kulp, PA-C in Primary Care, talks to a patient using telehealth.

When a patient calls in to make an appointment, a representative will determine if the person is a candidate for telehealth, and schedules them accordingly. The day of the visit, the patient will receive a call from the office to check them in remotely. Then, the office will send a text or email to the patient, linking them to a private video call, where they will be joined by the provider and nurse to complete the visit.

“I am incredibly grateful to have a way to talk to my high-risk patients without bringing them into the clinic,” said Gariner. “Some of my older patients have been the best at navigating the entire process. They’re pros by the first visit!”

The telehealth option will be available anytime during regular business hours, and is for almost all patients. For those that require a physical exam or more of a “hand-on” approach, a face-to-face visit with the provider can be scheduled.

“Most telehealth appointments are highly effective, and quite comforting to patients during this time of increased need for social distancing,” explained Gariner. “However, if a provider determines that a patients needs a higher level of care, they are scheduled for an in-person visit.”

SLV Health has been using telehealth for about a month, and has found it an effective way to bridge the gap between medical staff and patients without sacrificing quality of care.

“I have found it to be quite the contrary – I’m providing safer, more personal care by being invited into patient’s homes,” said Gariner. “Getting to meet their dogs, their children or even see their homes – it’s been a great experience.”

To schedule an appointment today, call 719-589-3000.