COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Nationwide Chidlren’s Hospital has expanded its telehealth services for outpatient appointments due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“We can reduce the risk of exposure to our patients, their families, and our staff and the trickle-down effect of these preventative measures is enormous,” said David Stukus, MD, associate professor of pediatrics in the division of allergy and immunology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
The hospital’s Big Lots Behavioral Health Services at Nationwide Children’s was the first department to offer online telehealth visits, providing more than 8,000 appointments between March 13 through April 2. By comparison, there were 19 telehealth visits for all of 2019.
“With few exceptions, we can accomplish almost everything we would at an in-person visit during a telehealth appointment, including the most likely diagnosis, recommended treatment options and follow-up care,” said Stukus. “And because we are connected to electronic medical records, we can also prescribe medication or diagnostic tests like x-rays or blood work.”
In a statement, Nationwide Children’s process has gone so well that most behavioral health appointments will now be telehealth-only for outpatient visits for as long as the state’s stay at home order is in effect.
Most insurance companies and government payors have expanded the use of telehealth in response to the pandemic, Nationwide Children’s said. Also, the Ohio Department of Medicaid has implemented a rule on telehealth services in the state.
A $1 million donation from Columbus-based American Electric Power (AEP) Foundation will help Nationwide Children’s ensure these services continue for patients and their families, especially for those in rural areas further from the hospital. New technology is being developed to expand the capabilities of virtual appointments, including more extensive physical exams and at-home diagnostic testing.