When COVID-19 began to make its way to the metro area this spring, we focused our preparations on how we would continue to care for our patients — the most vulnerable targets of the virus — while doing everything in our power to protect both them and staff members who would be going into their homes. We started making telephone visits and launched, within a month’s time, a telehealth video platform called doxy.me.
While the switch to telehealth has been tough for some patients and caregivers who do not have the technology or the skill to use a computer or a smartphone, most of our patients are able to have their medical needs addressed through a video house call. One segment of our caregivers, the adult care home (ACH) owner/operators, are extremely grateful to have the doxy.me option since homes within Multnomah county are still in lockdown.
“Multnomah county ACHs are only allowing medical professionals through their doors and then, only if it is an emergency,” says owner/operator Roxana Tolan. Roxana and her husband Greg Deli own two ACHs next door to one another and specialize in caring for residents with behavioral and cognitive issues. Their residents are also high risk due to their multiple chronic conditions, so telehealth house calls have been welcomed and appreciated.
“The transition to telehealth has been wonderful,” says Roxana. “Even before the pandemic, a couple of my residents would fear the doctor coming to see them because of the past traumas they experienced while institutionalized,” says Roxana. “Over the phone or on video chat they do well because they are more comfortable.”
Primary care provider Barb Sutton, APN agrees. “I find that with skilled caregivers, telehealth works well for some of the more apprehensive psychiatric patients,” she says. “Before they wouldn’t allow me to do much of a face-to-face exam, but now they are being engaged by the video and are more relaxed.”
Most of the ACH owner/operators tell Barb they really like the telehealth option because it shows a commitment to keep their residents safe while still being actively involved in their health care. She has made a few urgent visits when caregivers call with a problem, noting that in pre-COVID-19 times those visits would usually have been made 24 or more hours later.
Since seeing the same provider is critical for her residents to build trust and a connection, Roxana likes the stability of Housecall Providers. “We don’t get tossed around with different providers and that is very important to me and our residents. If we go into a clinic setting where it is a different doctor each time, they don’t do well with that,” she says. Currently, all 10 of her residents are receiving medical care from Housecall Providers.
Roxana, who has been a caregiver most of her adult life, says that life has stayed pretty normal in her adult care homes since the pandemic arrived in Oregon. “For us it wasn’t a big change when COVID-19 hit because the majority of my residents don’t have family that visit anyway,” says Roxana. “My husband and I are their family.”