Stock telehealth, virtual doctor

As the COVID-19 virus spread across the country starting in early 2020, businesses had to implement special protocols and practices to keep themselves and their clients safe and healthy. Medical practices were no strangers to this. In fact, most of them were at the forefront of this new movement to switch to virtual or socially-distanced means of communication.

Elisa Poggi, owner of Insight Clinical Trials in Beachwood, and Jennell Vick, owner of Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center in Cleveland, have revamped the way they see and support their patients.

Insight Clinical trials has been able to stay open throughout the entire pandemic thanks to the new protocols. Poggi said one new practice has been the staggering of appointments so there is only one patient at a time in each area of the facility.

“There’s only one person at a time in each room,” said Poggi, who added the entire staff at Insight Clinical Trials has been vaccinated. “So, if there’s only one person in the waiting room, if someone is starting to come in, then that person is moved into another room. So, we have enough rooms here where patients aren’t ever in the same room together.”

Vick said the biggest change for Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center is the advent of telehealth appointments. She said it can make it a lot easier for families to comply with what’s required and to continue with their regular visits. Vick said it’s crucial to come in at least once per week in order to see progress.

“For telehealth for speech, especially for families with young children, it can be really challenging,” she said. “Between team practices and extracurricular activities, remote school or in-person school, it’s really challenging to get your child to an office for services. The remote services offer an element of convenience that just isn’t there. It’s like remote work. You’ve eliminated commute time, if you will.”

A unique practice that Insight Clinical Trials has started is bringing in food for patients while they wait for their appointments.

“It just makes them feel more comfortable that they don’t have to get in the car and try to find a restaurant, to get a meal or to eat somewhere,” Poggi said. “So, for safety, it lessens their exposure to people. Our staff is small, so they always see the same people. We will do whatever we can to lessen their exposure to any risk.”

Poggi added those protocols will likely continue for the foreseeable future, possibly as long as two or three years. Until then, they will have to embrace these procedures in order to keep everyone safe in their facility.

“I think it’s extremely important for staff to feel safe, for patients to always feel safe, and to know that they are first and foremost in our minds,” Poggi said. “They need to be protected. And because we are in a medical facility, we should have the know-how to protect patients when they come in. Especially vulnerable patients. And a lot of those are geriatric patients. So their safety is a priority to us.”

Vick said she thinks many of these protocols are here to stay, especially the ability to hold appointments virtually.

“I think there is a lot that will continue as we reintegrate with in-person society,” Vick said. “I think that telepractice is here to stay ... and I think many of us have benefited from being able to have that remote visit. That check-in is so convenient. In some ways, telepractice and remote therapy have allowed us to be in better touch with our clients. Because they feel empowered to reach out, whether it’s by telephone or to get that quick telepractice visit to ask a question, rather than waiting for the scheduled appointment two days later.”

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